Trapped manatees rescued in Florida

This video from the USA says about itself:

Crews save 19 manatees trapped in Florida storm drain

24 February 2015

Thanks to a rescue operation that stretched late into the night, the large marine mammals were set free. Erica Rakow of CBS Orlando affiliate WKMG reports from Satellite Beach, Florida.

By Barbara Liston:

Trapped manatees rescued from storm drain

February 25 2015

About 20 Florida manatees have been freed from a storm drain near Cape Canaveral, where they were apparently trying to warm themselves, officials and local media said.

Video footage showed a rescuer comforting one manatee floating at the opening of the pipe, which was cut open during the hours-long rescue.

The footage, posted online by Central Florida News 13 and Florida Today newspaper, also showed a manatee being carried in a sling to a nearby canal, where it was released to cheers from onlookers, and two other manatees being petted after being hoisted out of the water by heavy machinery.

The rescue in Satellite Beach, a town on the Atlantic coast 24 kilometres south of Cape Canaveral, started mid-afternoon on Monday when Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist, Ann Spellman, sounded the alarm, according to Florida Today.

She told the paper that her hunch led city workers to check the 30 to 45 metre-long drain pipe.

Manatees, also known as sea cows, often leave the Indian River Lagoon during cold snaps for warmer waters in the canals and had probably followed each other into the pipe, she said.

Young loggerhead turtle survives beaching in the Netherlands

This video from the USA says about itself:

25 September 2012

An educational video by SEE Turtles about sea turtle migrations including leatherbacks and loggerheads.

Translated from the Dutch RAVON herpetologists:

Loggerhead survives stranding

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

On Sunday, January 11th a young loggerhead turtle stranded on the beach at Wassenaar. It was the second turtle on a Dutch beach in four weeks because on December 20, 2014 at Den Helder a young Kemp’s ridley turtle had been found. This animal was transferred to Rotterdam Zoo but died that night. The loggerhead is more fortunate.

The young loggerhead (Caretta caretta) was noticed in the morning by hikers in the low surf on the beach, near Berkheide, and was reported to Ecomare museum and the animal ambulance in The Hague. The turtle was then picked up by the animal ambulance and delivered at Rotterdam Zoo. Rotterdam Zoo is along with Burgers’ Zoo the designated place for accommodation of stranded sea turtles.

Upon entering Rotterdam Zoo it was noted that the animal was very apathetic, felt cold, but apparently had no injuries. Also an X-ray examination revealed no significant issues. However, abnormal liver and kidney values were found in the blood. The turtle had a weight of 2.1 kg and a shell with a length of 24.5 centimeters. The first night the turtle was housed in a small amount of water at 14 degrees Celsius to prevent drowning. The next morning, the animal swam around to everyone’s surprise. The water level was increased to 80 centimeters and the temperature was raised in four days time in small increments to 20 degrees. After six days the turtle started feeding and also its blood levels became a lot better. The coming months the turtle will remain in Rotterdam Zoo to recuperate and to see if it has no permanent damage on account of its adventure in the cold North Sea. Then people will look where the animal can be freed again.

The first mention of a loggerhead turtle [in the Netherlands] was in 1707. This animal was exhibited after its discovery in a café in Amsterdam, where the animal died after a few days. Since then, there are seven other reports from the Netherlands. Insofar as is known, only the animal that washed ashore in 2008 at Groote Keeten (Noord-Holland province) survived. This weakened animal was rehabilitated in the aquarium of Burgers’ Zoo and later freed off the Portuguese coast.

The current one is probably from Florida (USA) where a large population nests. Juveniles make journeys with the Gulf Stream to the Azores and Cape Verde Islands after which they return to the coast of America.

An article about the stranding of the young loggerhead will soon appear in the RAVON journal.

Hundreds of manatees at Florida springs

This video from the USA is called Snorkeling & Kayaking with the Manatees of Three Sisters Springs, Florida on February 17, 2013.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Manatees descend on Florida springs in record numbers

A rush in tides prompted a dramatic surge in numbers

Roisin O’Connor

Tuesday 03 February 2015

Three Sisters Springs in Citrus County usually has an average of 65 manatees gathered at once during the cold weather, but a rush in tides at noon prompted a dramatic surge in numbers.

“We have a record number this year,” Ruettiman told USA Today. “We have 150 more manatees here than have ever been recorded in the past.”

Officials said the springs reopened to the public on 3 February but would be closed again as manatees returned to the interior of the springs with the rising tide.

Florida campus police militarization, students protest

This video from the USA says about itself:

Radley Balko on the Militarization of America’s Police Force: VICE Meets

28 August 2014

On August 9th, 2014 a white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. The death of Brown fueled days of unrest in Ferguson. Protestors took to the streets and were met with heavily armed police officers in armored vehicles. It wasn’t long before Ferguson, a town of 21,000, resembled a war zone. This week’s VICE Meets is a conversation about the militarization of America’s police force, with journalist and author of Rise of the Warrior Cop, Radley Balko.

By Jennifer Portman, Tallahassee Democrat in Florida, USA:

FSU students to protest police ‘militarization’

7:03 a.m. EST January 27, 2015

Members of the Tallahassee Dream Defenders and Students for a Democratic Society plan to have a rally today calling for Florida State campus police to “demilitarize” and give up weapons and a combat vehicle the department purchased through a federal military surplus program.

Such equipment, purchased by thousands of state and local police agencies across the county through a U.S. Department of Defense program, gained attention when it was used by law enforcement officials during last year’s riots in Ferguson, Mo.

“We feel that it’s unsafe for a campus police department to have such excessive fire power,” said FSU sophomore Mark Niekus, president of the Tallahassee Students for a Democratic Society. “There is no conceivable use for them except for using them on students who do not follow the rules.” …

The program, known as the 1033 program, was created in the 1990s to help law enforcement agencies get equipment to assist primarily in counter-drug and counter-terrorism efforts. Through the program, FSU police purchased a brand new amour-plated Humvee for $1,500, which [FSU Police Chief] Perry said would normally cost $83,000, as well as 10 semi-automatic rifles for $680. …

Niekus said the event is in response to the Missouri riots, but took time to come together. The rally is at 2 p.m. today at the Westcott Fountain.

New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton on Thursday unveiled a new militarized police unit that will be trained and armed with heavy protective gear, long rifles, and machine guns to restrain terrorists and social justice protesters: here.

Coral discovery off Florida

This 2011 video from Florida is called Deep Water Coral Reefs: Oases of the Ocean: Recent Discoveries and Conservation.

From the Sun Sentinel in the USA:

Forests of rare coral discovered off South Florida

By David Fleshler

December 29 2014

A surprise discovery along the South Florida coast has revealed dense thickets of a species of coral thought to be disappearing from the region’s reefs.

More than 38 acres of staghorn coral has been found in patches on the reefs from northern Miami-Dade to northern Broward counties, in what scientists call a rare piece of good news for a species that has sustained severe declines, largely due to disease.

“This is a huge win for Florida’s corals,” said Joanna Walczak, southeast regional administrator for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection‘s Florida coastal office.

Staghorn coral, which extends delicate branches up from the ocean floor, is among the most important coral species for its ability to build reefs, creating habitat for fish and other marine creatures and providing a natural wave-break that protects the coast.

The dense patches of the federally protected coral, discovered through dives and the analysis of aerial surveys, run from the area off Golden Beach through Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Although many of the coral concentrations lie far from shore, some are accessible to divers.

A scientist from Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center found the coral while doing a survey for the environmental agency, which wanted a better map of shallow reef system.

“This was an unexpected result of a project that was intended to improve our knowledge of the types and locations of near-shore reef habitats in southeast Florida,” said Brian Walker, research scientist at Nova’s National Coral Reef Institute, who conducted the study.

The northern limit for the species is roughly around Boca Raton, but in the past, it was densest in the Florida Keys. The species has been disappearing there, however, battered by a variety of problems, including coral bleaching and white-band disease.

Global warming contributed to the decline, with higher water temperatures touching off more frequent incidents of bleaching. That occurs when corals expel the algae on which they depend for energy, making them more vulnerable to disease, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ironically, that same warming may have made the water temperatures of Miami-Dade and Broward counties more hospitable for the species.

“Some have speculated that climate change might have contributed,” Walker said.

The department of environmental protection wanted a better map of the coral’s locations to improve the management of beach-widening, coastal development and other activities that could harm corals, as well as improve responses to incidents such as oil spills and illegal boat anchoring.

Along the Fort Lauderdale coast, a patch was found about 325 yards off Northeast 18th Street, another about 430 yards off Vista Park and one about 325 yards off the north end of the Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel, where A1A splits. Another patch stands about 540 yards off the center of John U. Lloyd Beach State Park. It is illegal to touch the coral.

When he dove the sites, Walker saw a variety of marine creatures swimming and creeping around the corals. He saw reef croakers, fireworms and sea hares (a type of mollusk named for two earlike appendages). He saw threespot damselfish, which cultivate algae gardens on the corals by weeding out the algae species they don’t plan to eat.

Walczak, of the environmental protection department, said her office has begun putting more effort into studying the reefs north of Biscayne National Park, and “it amazes me that we’re still finding new and exciting discoveries.”

Florida sawfish news update

This video is called Sawfish Off Jupiter Florida.

From the Sun Sentinel in the USA:

Signs of hope for endangered sawfish

3 minutes ago by David Fleshler

Approaching Port Everglades in a helicopter, Ryan Goldman peered down at the water and saw a ray swimming at unusually high speed.

Behind it, he spotted two large and bizarre-looking predators: the endangered smalltooth sawfish, which use their long, serrated bills to hunt prey. The two 12-foot-long fish swam out of the inlet as the helicopter circled and Goldman, a biologist for Broward County who was in the air to count manatees, took photos.

The sighting in March may provide further evidence of a modest resurgence of one of the world’s most endangered fish, a giant that that can reach a length of 18 feet. Although they resemble sharks, sawfish are a species of ray. They use the saw, known as a rostrum, to slash at schools of fish and dislodge prey from the ocean floor.

Once ranging across the coast from North Carolina to Texas, the smalltooth sawfish has been reduced to a core habitat along the coast of Everglades National Park, the Florida Keys and southwestern Florida. Although the species can be found along the coasts of other countries, the U.S. population is believed to be isolated.

“They are the largest species of in-shore fish that anybody’s going to see,” said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File, who is compiling a database of global sawfish sightings. “It’s bigger than any of the sharks, bigger than any of the groupers. … Its recovery as a species in the United States is totally dependent on what we do in Florida. We as Floridians have a special obligation to save the species.”

In the past few years, sawfish have been turning up more frequently in parts of their old range. Divers have encountered them in submerged wrecks off Jupiter. One turned up in Port Everglades in 2012, although it was dead and tangled in a fishing line.

“We’re seeing signs that the population may be recovering slowly,” said Dean Grubbs, associate director of research at the Florida State University Coastal & Marine Laboratory, who has placed satellite tags on the sawfish. “We are seeing some animals showing up in the Florida Panhandle, Alabama, the east coast of Georgia. We would expect, if the population continues to recover, for them to show up in Louisiana, South Carolina and North Carolina.”

On a recent spearfishing dive north of Jupiter Inlet, Jim Fyfe saw two sawfish, one about 12 feet long, the other 14 feet. A video posted on YouTube shows each sawfish resting on the sandy ocean floor in about 75 feet of water. When Fyfe approached, they stirred and swam off.

In addition to spreading out to new areas, Burgess said, “we do have hints that there are more of them” in their core range.

But Gregg Poulakis, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said he isn’t sure a recovery is underway.

“I think it’s a little too early to tell,” said Poulakis, who has done years of field research on sawfish. “There’s no analysis I’m aware of that shows the population is increasing. They’re stable for sure.”

The decline of sawfish was largely because the fish were accidentally caught in commercial fishing gear, such as longlines and shrimp trawls. They also have been caught by recreational fishermen who cut off the rostrum as a trophy. Another cause of decline has been coastal construction, which destroyed the red mangrove coastlines that sheltered juvenile sawfish.

But several protection measures have gone into effect, both before and after the sawfish was designated an endangered species in 2003.

In 1994 Florida banned the use of gillnets, large commercial fishing nets that hang vertically in the water. Sawfish habitat around the Keys and Everglades National Park received additional protections. And a public awareness campaign reminded recreational anglers it was illegal to kill sawfish and they should avoid harming any accidentally caught.

“People used to catch them, cut off the saw and throw the fish overboard,” Grubbs said. “People probably still do that, but for the most part that has ended.”

Countering this positive trend has been the rise of social media, which has led many to post photos and videos of themselves on YouTube, Instagram and other sites catching sharks, sawfish and other marine creatures, said Sonja Fordham, president of Shark Advocates International. To get better photos, they often haul them out of the water, an illegal act when it involves endangered species, which are protected by law from harassment.

“Through social media we’re seeing more mishandling of sawfish,” Fordham said. “Sawfish with tail ropes that had clearly been dragged. Sawfish should never be lifted out of the water or dragged.”

Unfortunately, she said, funding for public outreach on sawfish has been reduced, making it harder to spread the word on how to avoid harming them.

Poulakis said he still encounters sawfish with fishing line around their heads, often tight and biting into their flesh because the sawfish has grown. He said recreational anglers generally try to free the fish but understandably don’t want to get too close to a thrashing saw.

“Most of them try to untangle them as best they can,” Poulakis said. “We see pretty significant damage to the head area. It gets wrapped around. It really starts to dig in. We’ve seen cases where as the fish grows, it will get tighter. We cut that off.”