Credit: Manatee Watch Network contributor at DISL R. Symes
A new publication from the Dauphine Island Marine Laboratory’s Marine Mammal Research Program (DISL) examines how bridge-building and construction activities in the water can affect manatees and other large aquatic species. The article was recently published in Wildlife Management Journal, It addresses the direct causes of injury, death and long-term cumulative effects on manatees and their habitats.
Some of the problems associated with construction activity include the potential entanglement of barriers such as booms and silt fences, loss of important habitats such as seagrass beds, and increased vessel activity near construction sites.
“Boat strikes are a major cause of manatee deaths, and the presence of boats and sandals in construction areas increases the risk of manatees in these areas,” said Elizabeth Hepp, lead author and director of the manatee control network at DISL. “The increased noise in construction areas can also mask the sound of approaching ships, making it difficult for manatees to avoid collisions,” he added.
The new DISL publication also reviews best practices for minimizing the negative impacts of building on aquatic species. DISL researchers hope that their work will be used to understand and reduce the range of risks associated with building bridges, marinas, launching boats and other infrastructure.
Manatees may be particularly endangered in areas along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico where little is known about their abundance and distribution. Data collected by DISL’s manatee monitoring network since 2007 indicates that more manatees migrate seasonally from Florida to Alabama and nearby waters in recent years. Planned construction projects in Mobile Bay, such as the expansion of I-10 Bayway and the deepening and expansion of the Mobile Bay Channel, will benefit from the data and other information gathered in this review in due course.
“This is not just a problem in Alabama or the United States, but also globally,” he said. “More and more people live in coastal areas where large species like manatees, dolphins, turtles, and fish also live, so manatees are a great species for understanding how construction affects so many different species.”
You can help contribute data to DISL’s manatee monitoring network by reporting manatee sightings at 1-866-493-5803 or online at http: // www.