Experts are watching the continuous flow of oil that is spilling into the Gulf of Mexico and trying to assess the ecological impact on the environment and the creatures that live in the ocean including the manatee, the gentle giant of the sea.
Think about the oil or gas you put in your car. Now imagine dumping it in your swimming pool and jumping in. For sea creatures, including sea turtles, manatees and whales, being covered in oil is as bad as it would be for us: When oil gets on their skin it sticks, when it gets in their lungs it burns and when they ingest it, the gunk can damage their insides, said the Naples Daily News.
With hundred of thousands of gallons of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, what impact will this have on the manatee population is a question nobody seems to be able to answer with any degree of certainty. Threats to the turtles and bird population have been reported at the Digital Journal by Carol Forsloff.
Officials of the Deepwater Horizon response team in Robert Louisiana say they don't know the answer to that question.
Chuck Underwood of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who is stationed at the Unified Command Joint Information Center in Robert said in a call this morning "At this time we have no reports of the manatee being impacted from the ecological disaster. There have been no manatee found in or near the oil spill location at this time."
Save the Manatee Club founded by renowned singer/songwriter, Jimmy Buffett, and former U.S. Senator, Bob Graham, when he was governor of Florida is preparing for any catastrophic consequences that may occur.
Save the Manatee Club
Adopt a Manatee and get a free t-shirt from the Save the Manatee Club in Florida
The Save the Manatee Club has provided funding for manatee rescue organizations both in and outside of Florida. In 1996, SMC contributed funding for equipment, aerial surveys and manatee care and feeding during the red tide epizootic in southwest Florida.
In addition, SMC has donated seven boats and trailers to various agencies and organizations for manatee rescue and research purposes and they need your help to do more if called on to rescue any endangered manatee should the oil spill impact their breeding and feeding grounds in the Gulf and its tributaries including the Crystal River and King's Bay.
The difficulty in containing the oil spill and finding solutions is something Digital Journal's Carol Forsloff has been reporting on daily from Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico since the explosion that resulted in the greatest economic and environmental disaster in Gulf coast history. For firsthand accounts continue to check out Forsloff's daily reports.
King's Bay is home to Florida's Gulf Coast Manatee during the winter months and has been a mecca for tourists, divers and manatee lovers wanting to have a real time adventures with these gentle giants in their natural habitat.Bird's Underwater Manatee tours located in Crystal River at Kings Bay have received numerous calls from people with reservations made for the spring and summer. They want to know how the disaster may affect the manatee in the Bay. Tourists planning summer vacations are also calling to see if the tours are still going on as oil steadily flows into the Gulf.
Birds Underwater Manatee Tours
A close up encounter with the Manatee is documented by photographs and video available with each tour at Birds.
In a conversation with Chris Senetra a diver and guide on Bird's awesome manatee encounters she confirmed that people are deeply concerned about this issue.
Marty Senetra provided the ultimate educational experience you can find at Crystal River and in Kings Bay. He not only led the small group experience but he also filmed it underwater for those of us who participated in this incredible adventure.
Chris said the chances of the oil getting into Kings Bay through Crystal River is slim at this time. There are just over six miles of water between Bird's Underwater Tour and the Gulf of Mexico. Tuesday she said they were still finding manatee in Kings Bay that have not left for the summer and on Tuesday ten manatee were spotted during the group tour. While winter is the best time to visit, the people at Bird's can provide you with a day of swimming and snorkeling with the manatee year round.
Kings Bay covers 600 acres and is home to over 500 manatee in the winter months but a few always stay the summer, said Senetra. Why do they stay? she was asked and she replied that she is unsure of that and this year the vegetation available for the manatee to feed on is scarce. She is not sure what they are eating since manatee need to eat their weight in vegetation each day to stay healthy. Manatee can get quite large, with full grown adults weighing hundreds of pounds.
The vegetation in Kings Bay and Crystal River is disappearing and studies are being conducted to find out why said Senetra. Nutrients in the groundwater and the algae Lyngbya are part of the problem say scientist's and researchers in Florida.
Crystal River/Kings Bay is a complex network of more than 30 springs. The discharge from this first magnitude spring system accounts for 99 percent of the fresh water entering the 600-acre Kings Bay. Crystal River/Kings Bay is Florida's second largest springs system, discharging more than 975 cubic feet of water per second. Crystal River, which emerges from the northwest end of Kings Bay, travels westward approximately six miles before entering the Gulf of Mexico says a report by Southwest Florida Water Management District.
It will be months before the Florida manatee will migrate north to the Crystal River and into Kings Bay but for now the health of the endangered manatee and the impact on their part of the Gulf remains a mystery.
Be sure to check out the video's, pictures and manatee encounter experiences at Bird's Underwater Manatee Tours Their concern for the manatee population and their efforts in education, conservation and protection of the manatee species is displayed at every moment during your adventure. Strict adherence to all state and federal laws is a priority to the people at Birds. They offer a truly unique once in a lifetime experience for manatee lovers and for the manatee who seem to enjoy the visitors and demonstrate that in their behaviour and curiosity of the human species.