TARPONS, TURTLES, AND MANATEES

When I lived in Palm Beach County, Florida – So Fla to Floridians –  we had such a variety of wonderful creatures surrounding us – as does all of Florida.  I have a picture of me standing on a golf course with a crocodile behind me.  Now, he or she wasn’t a very big guy as crocs go – maybe five-feet or so – but that thing was big enough that I was nervous and kept watching over my shoulder as my picture was being taken.

And the herons and the egrets and the little geckos – such a variety.  I remember the huge bugs too.   The cockroaches were huge, and I once had one get caught in my long hair.  We sometimes called them Palmetto bugs instead of cockroaches, and I just had to know why they were called different things.

My boss, who was an attorney, explained the difference.  If you were on the Chamber of Commerce and trying to put your city’s best foot forward, that buzzing, ugly, flying torpedo was a Palmetto bug.  If you were just – well you and me – they were cockroaches.

One of my most memorable jaunts was to a place called the Hungry Tarpon Restaurant on Islamorada, a not so fancy establishment – classically known as a hole-in-the-wall with great food.  But the most intriguing part of the experience was the deck out back.  Entering the front, we thought we were just going to eat breakfast, but once inside, it became apparent that this place had much more to offer than just a good breakfast.

We were asked if we wanted to feed the tarpons out back.  Mind  you, I am a Hoosier, and, even though I had traveled, I really had very little concept of just what creatures lurked beyond my Indiana borders.  What the heck was a tarpon?  Why, said the waitress, it was a big fish.  Um hm.  Big isn’t quite the word for it.  Big, ugly, and frightening is more like it.

So we bought a couple of small buckets of fish – I am not sure what kind they were – I just knew they were sacrificing themselves so that this tourist could see a tarpon get its fill.  The deck was ordinary – long, slatted, and slippery.  As I took my bucket out with me, the waitress was instructing me on how to “fling” my fish out into the water.  I felt kind of bad – I am a vegetarian and I felt guilty about feeding these poor, hapless little critters to this monstrous thing that dwarfed them.

But not guilty enough that I didn’t want to experience a little slice of nature.  The waitress instructed me on how to throw the fish out.  This really isn’t a hard thing to do ordinarily, but this was no ordinary feat.  For joining us on the deck were sea gulls – hungry seagulls.  The waitress told me that I had to take the little fish and swing my arm back and then forward slowly and then let go.  She also told me that the sea gulls were smart and might – just might – snag the fish.

Okay – how smart could a sea gull be?  Well, pretty darn smart.  I lost quite a few fish to the gulls initially.  Man, they were smart, and they were fast.  I finally got the hang of it and learned how to throw the fish out to the tarpons.  Now look at the picture below.  Look at those jaws.  Look at them swimming around.  That is just what it looked like as I was trying to feed them.  I kept thinking how horrible it would be if you fell into that swarming mass of fishies.

My favorite creature of all in Florida was the Manatee.  Manatees – also called sea cows –  are slow.  They have been decimated by speedboats captained by those who care little for life other than their own.  They need and they seek warmth.   In my area, the manatees hung out in groups at the Florida Electric Light and Power outlet at Riveria Beach, just south of where I lived.

I couldn’t resist so I went many times to the electric company’s outlet to see them.  The company has provided a small overlook so that as the cows and their calves slowly moved around the inlet, tourists could see them.  I was surprised to see that the manatees were accompanied by a friend – barracudas.   But what a sight – manatees, slow and graceful, barely moving and floating with their babies in the warm water that was discharged into the inlet – side by side with barracudas.

And the turtles – Loggerheads – are in danger.  Loggerheads were named for their relatively large heads, which support powerful jaws and enable them to feed on hard-shelled prey, such as whelks and conch. Violations of the Endangered Species Act have led to the possibility of extinction of loggerheads sea turtles.

Logger heads nest primarily in Florida.  I never got to see a loggerhead, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about them.  The federal agencies admit for the first time that the most significant man-made factor affecting conservation and recovery of the loggerhead is incidental capture in commercial and artisanal fisheries.  Tens of thousands of loggerhead sea turtles are killed annually in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico by destructive fishing gear, including trawls, gillnets and longlines. Loggerheads also are captured and killed by commercial fisheries that use hook and line, seines, dredges and various types of pots and traps.

One by one.  As the Lorax said, UNLESS.  The manatees and the loggerheads are our co-companions on this little planet, and they need our help.  The Obama Administration has said it will be more environmentally friendly. Make them keep to their promise.

Advertisements

About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Endangered Species Act and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to TARPONS, TURTLES, AND MANATEES

  1. Iceironman says:

    Your quote

    “They have been decimated by speedboats captained by those who care little for life other than their own.”

    Not really. I assume you attack the operators of the boats because they have money, because they are having fun, or even fishing? I cant figure this one out.

    I hit a deer with my vehicle and all of a sudden I care only for myself. I would guess that 90% of the boaters who hit a manatee didnt even know it. I also bet 100% would choose not to hit one if it was their choice. These people are not evil as you state. I guess natural selection is taking place (I learned that in school).

  2. Ice:

    How is it natural selection when the deaths are man-made and controlled? That is the farthest thing from “natural” that I have ever heard of. I can’t figure out your take on this.

    The boat operators would most certainly know if they hit a manatee. They are huge, and they they weigh a lot? Are you going to tell me that hitting something of that size cannot be felt? Come on – even you know you are stretching here.

    I don’t care if the speedboat owners have money or not. You can have money and have respect for other creatures that inhabit this planet. Florida had to establish speed limits so that boaters would slow down – otherwise, if there were no speed limits, they would just have so much “fun” running over manatees and slicing into them with their motor blades.

  3. Iceironman says:

    Natural selection is when nature produces a winner. Humans are a part of this. If a blade on a boat is moving at 1000 rpm and touches the back of a manatee, nothing felt. It is all blubber being sliced. The prop is 3 feet below the water surface, not at the top of the surface.

    “How is it natural selection when the deaths are man-made and controlled?” Classic liberal question… We are a part of nature. Although you would like to dismiss humans as just a virus on the surface of the earth, we are a part of nature. Once again, natural selection was sighted when the industrial revolution took place (man made), they claimed the soot from the smoke stacks led to one color of moths being selected for preditory dominace. This was later proved false and the photo of the moth was proved bunk. If the damn animals cant get out of the way their genes will be “selected” out of the earth. So basicly we are selecting for faster, more alert manatees.

    Just remember, humans are a part of the cycle (nature), we are selected for(sickle cell anemia) and we select. Dont blame boaters for a slow and sloppy animal. Once you realize man is a part of nature, you willl realize that it is natural selection.

  4. Ice:

    How dismissive can you get? Is a motor boat with a motor a part of nature? These are man-made objects and are not found in nature. Now if a manatee dies because it can’t get out of the way of an alligator, that is natural selection, but to equate a man-made object with natural selection doesn’t even relate.

    To think that a manatee can think to itself “wow, here comes a motor boat, I better get out of the way” is ludicrous. Manatees inhabit shallow waters and are at risk from boaters – that is why Florida has imposed speed boat laws.

    As to man being a part of nature, so what? We are well on our way to exterminating any number of species because of destruction of the environment. Human beings are responsible for destruction of not only many species themselves but also the environment which sustains them.

    So, do you support the theory of evolution?

  5. Iceironman says:

    The motor boat with a motor is part of the natural system. Maybe we need to refine the definition of natural selection and natural system. Man and all of his attributes constitute natural selection. Is MRSA a part of natural selection—even though it is produced on hog farms? Is avian flu a part of natural selection?

    So if the manatee cant think and I quote “wow, here comes a motor boat, I better get out of the way” why the hell would slower speed limits help the manatee?

    I saw a coyote tear apart a raccoon limb to limb, should I kill the coyote? It is causing destruction. I saw a beaver dam up a river, should I kill it because it obstructed a natural waterway.

    Just because humans were the only creatures smart enough to use tools doesnt mean we should condem them. After all, you are one. (and you fed fish to fish—-how gross, way to play god with you evolved self)

  6. Ice:

    No, we are not going to redefine “natural” just to allow you to argue that killing manatees with speed boats is “natural selection.” You go right ahead and redefine it, if you like. Now if the boat that had killed a manatee was a canoe made from birch bark being paddled by those in it, PERHAPS I would agree that it was part of a natural system.

    Slower speed limits require the motors to be at the lowest speed possible – usually idle speed – within 300 feet or so of shore. This would be where manatees are typically found since they live in shallow waters.

    I am sure you will go out and find info from sites – typically those affiliated with sports, boating, etc. – that will debunk the notion that speed boats kill manatees. So again, we are at a standoff.

    The examples you gave are off the mark, and you know it. A coyote killing a raccoon is part of the natural process, and the beaver building its dam is part of the natural process. A human tearing down the dam or killing the coyote because it killed the raccoon is not part of the natural process. You attempted to intertwine destruction with natural process. These are not the same thing, and, once again, you know it.

    You choose to believe in a certain way, and I choose to believe in another way.

    And, by the way, the fish thing occurred 12 years ago. I would not participate in that activity today.

  7. Andy says:

    Iceironman –

    “Dont blame boaters for a slow and sloppy animal.”

    Sorry, when 20 – 40 % of all Florida manatee deaths are a direct result of a collision between a boat propeller and a manatee then a good portion of the burden does fall on boaters.

    It also doesn’t help that a recent study conducted by the University of FL found that “most boaters speed through manatee conservation zones.”

    http://news.ufl.edu/2007/07/03/manatee-3/

    You also stated:

    “Just because humans were the only creatures smart enough to use tools doesnt mean we should condem them.”

    Plenty of animals, other than humans, have been documented using tools:

    http://www.livescience.com/animals/050929_gorilla_tools.html

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/02/070222-chimps-spears.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tool_use_by_animals

  8. Iceironman says:

    I agree that some manatees are hit by boats. I dissagree that these people are selfish and only care for themselves as you stated. People out on the water (no matter what they are in) is a natural process. So, humans are not a part of nature? Would a caveman tearing down a dam to get the beaver to eat it be natural? And according to your statements, the human caused soot supposedly leading to the selection of one moth over the other would not be natural selection—even though every liberal blames humans for it.

    The point is, you put down people that hit manatees. You have a grude for some reason. You have hit a deer before with your vehicle, does that mean you care little for others other than yourself. No. If you can have an effect on nature, then you are a part of nature!

  9. Ice:

    I did not say humans were not a part of nature. We are, and what that means is that humans must decide whether to live in harmony with nature causing the least destruction and decimation possible or live in disharmony with nature causing irreversible damage and destruction such as destroying habitat which ultimately destroys species.

    I have hit one deer in my life, and it was not a pleasant occurrence. But let me make one distinction – as bad as it was, I did not hit an endangered species. Manatees are on the endangered species list at the federal level and at the state level.

    I don’t like being the cause of death for any animal, but an endangered species is protected and that means higher measures must be taken to protect the endangered species. Deer simply do not fall into that category. In fact, I dare say, where you might hunt a deer for food, you would not do so to a manatee.

  10. Iceironman says:

    The endangered species list used to mean something. Now it is all political for the most part. Polar Bears for example. Other creatures have been dragged into court to suspend building.

    If humans are a part of nature, then so is everything we create(motorboats). So if humans are a part of nature, then if we take out the weak and slow of a species, would that not be natural selection?

    You dont like being the cause of death. Neither do the operators of the boats. And yes, I would eat a manatee, I would hunt them, if it means feeding my family. Also, I would assume, if deer are put on the endangered species list, you will volenteer your drivers licence and sell your truck? BOO YAH!!!!!!!!

  11. Ice:

    All things are political – someone somewhere sets the rules and decides who gets what, when, and where. That is politics. The endangered species list still means something – it just depends on which side of the fence you sit.

    The fact that you disagree with the selection of species put onto the list simply means you have a different opinion than I do.

    As to the deer, your example – in today’s world – is simply a red herring and a distraction to the real discussion. Early in the 20th century white-tailed deer were rare in the Midwest. Uncontrolled hunting had reduced their numbers to about 500,000 nationwide, and some states had no deer at all.

    Laws were put in place to protect deer and to re-establish the deer population. Today, deer are widely distributed, and hunted, with indigenous representatives in all continents except Antarctica and Australia. Hunting laws are still in place so that the deer population is not once again subject to decimation to the point of disappearing.

    Deer also procreate at a much faster rate than manatees. Manatees have one calf usually every three to five years with a gestation period of around 13 months. Deer gestation is half that of the manatee, and deer have one or two fawns each litter. In addition, manatees cannot survive below 60 degrees, so their habitat is much more restricted than deer.

  12. Andy says:

    Iceironman-

    “If humans are a part of nature, then so is everything we create(motorboats).”

    This is a rather bizarre statement to make. Yes, humans are part of nature, but “so is everything we create” ?

    I think your definition of nature is very different than the majority of individuals.

    Using your logic, are the millions of plastic water bottles currently floating around in our oceans “part of nature” ?

    There is no doubt human activity is drastically changing the world we live in. Unfortunately, the more humans increase their population and their consumption, the greater the negative impact it will have on our environment.

    I agree when Charlotte stated:

    “…humans must decide whether to live in harmony with nature causing the least destruction and decimation possible or live in disharmony with nature causing irreversible damage and destruction such as destroying habitat which ultimately destroys species.”

    Is this too much to ask, for humans to try to live in harmony with nature ?

    Too many people (humans) think it is their god-given right to take, consume, and exploit our Earth, and all of it’s resources with absolutely no regard for the other species who also inhabit it.

    As the U of F study stated, “most boaters speed through manatee conservation zones”. Maybe they (boaters) did not want to be bothered by reducing their boat’s speed. Maybe they really don’t care if a manatee is hit by their boat. Or maybe they just don’t care about other species or the “natural” world in general. No one is banning someone the right to use a boat here. The boaters are just being told (by law) to slow down in a manatee conservation zone.

    I can tell you I’ve witnessed human beings actually try to purposely run OVER an animal in the road, in some sick display of wicked behavior. A family of ducks were crossing a street near Lakeside Park, and while other drivers waited as the ducks crossed, one driver actually SPED UP, and went around the other cars in an attempt to run over some of the ducklings. The driver was “successful” and ended up running over two ducklings as the remainder of the ducks ran for their lives. Maybe the driver felt a certain gratification or exhilaration after it killed the ducks – who knows ? There seems to be an incredible impulse by some humans to kill other species as a way to assert their manhood.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canned_hunting

    http://www.texashuntfish.com/app/forum/23605/Hunting-Lions/Texas-Hunting-Exotic-Hunting

    http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/Politics/0,,2-7-12_2395110,00.html

    Iceironman –

    You also stated:

    “So if humans are a part of nature, then if we take out the weak and slow of a species, would that not be natural selection?”

    I have to wonder how you view humans who are born with a certain disease or disability. Do you view these human beings as “inferior” or a “weak and slow of a species” ?

  13. Iceironman says:

    Andy, first off, it is great that the diseased or disabled human was allowed to be born. Second, if it were not for caring parents to help the child through adulthood, yes, nature would take them out. But that isnt how I would look at it. I dont view humans as inferiour in any condition. I dont make special olympic comments. I help them. Why would you question how I treat “special people” I dont just act like I care, I do.

    If you want to know how natural selection works on humans–look up malaria and sickle cell annemia. Then look up the deaths caused by ddt and see which is worse DDT or maleria. All of these weak and suceptable people would get ddt from me. They dont from “those who care”. Never have seen something so rediculous.

  14. Iceironman says:

    Sorry, I suck.

  15. Ice:

    Yikes, where did that come from?

  16. miranda says:

    next maybe u can take pictures of manatees in its habitat!!!! that would be exiting !!!!:) :^)

Comments are closed.