Look out below
cindy lane | sun
A pair of least terns, a threatened
species, laid the first tern nest of
the season on Anna Maria Island
last week just seaward of the dune
bordering the new beach parking lot
at the BeachHouse Restaurant
in Bradenton Beach...
It’s that time of year when nature is renewing itself just off Anna Maria Island’s beaches.
Sea turtles are mating offshore and swimming ashore to lay their nests. Next month, their hatchlings will be bursting out of the nests and running (as fast as turtles with tiny little flippers can run) to the Gulf of Mexico.
Dolphins and manatees also are mating and birthing calves in Sarasota Bay and the Gulf.
And more people are out on the water than at any other time of year with power boats, sailboats, Jet Skis, kayaks, paddleboards and other water toys.
It’s up to people to watch out for animals, which are particularly vulnerable during birthing season, according to scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.
So far this year, Mote has recovered several sea turtles suspected to have been struck by boats.
Last spring and summer, four resident dolphins also were struck by boats in local waters, and one new calf died. This year, two new dolphin calves have been seen with long-term resident Sarasota Bay mothers, which frequently use shallow waters where they cannot dive below an approaching boat.
Manatees, which have died in the hundreds from red tide in southwest Florida earlier this year, also are mating and giving birth.
Here are some tips to keep them safe:
• Wear polarized sunglasses to help you spot marine life in the water.
• Never feed marine wildlife. It’s harmful and illegal.
• Stow trash and fishing line when underway. Marine animals can ingest or be entangled by marine debris that blows overboard.
• Keep your distance from sea turtles, dolphins and manatees, especially from a manatee mating herd, to avoid disrupting their behavior.
• If you see an entangled, stranded or dead sea turtle or dolphin, call Mote's Stranding Investigations Program 24 hours a day at 941-988-0212.
• If you see an entangled, stranded or dead manatee, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC, *FWC on your cellular phone or VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio, which also responds to turtle and dolphin calls outside Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Sea turtles are protected under federal law and any harassment or interference with a sea turtle, living or dead, is subject to penalty. If you witness anyone disturbing a turtle or find an injured or disoriented hatchling or adult, notify agents with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring at 941-778-5638 or local law enforcement. If you find a dead or injured sea turtle contact Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program at 941-988-0212.