Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mississippi fishermen snag manatees near Deer Island - 19th May 2011

Two Mississippi fishermen have reported hooking manatees in the last week.

While both incidents happened in the same area -- around the Katrina Reef near Deer Island, just off the Mississippi coast from Ocean Springs -- it was unclear whether the same manatee was hooked twice.

Manatees often travel in groups, and often stay in an area for days or weeks at a time, if conditions are favorable.

Ruth Carmichael, a senior marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and director of the Manatee Sighting Network, said the new reports suggest that manatees are arriving in the northern Gulf much earlier than in years past.

"Something is going on that we do not fully understand, perhaps due to early warmer temperatures and the greater freshwater inputs," Carmichael said. "We are definitely looking at evidence of more animals further west earlier in the year this year."

Carmichael also said that a manatee fitted with a satellite tag after being captured in Dog River last year returned to Mobile Bay last month. Named Zewie, the animal migrated to Florida's Crystal River for the winter, stopped briefly in Mobile Bay in April and has now headed west into Louisiana.

The public can follow the travels of Zewie and other manatees tagged in Mobile Bay during the last three years on the Sighting Network's website at http://manatee.disl.org.

It remains unclear whether any manatees were affected by the oil spill, though Carmichael said she has seen no evidence of direct impacts thus far.

A record number of dead manatees were found in Alabama waters this past winter, all believed to have waited too late to begin migrating to the warmer waters of central Florida. Read More