Atlantic County News

Manatee Sightings Prompt Warning to Barnegat Bay Boaters

BRICK-Tuesday’s manatee sighting at Beaton’s Boatyard in Brick Township means boaters in the Barnegat Bay should use caution this weekend and to be on the lookout.   Collisions with watercraft in Florida, manatee’s native home account for a large majority of their deaths in those waters each year.   Approximately 70 manatees were killed in Florida in boating or jet ski crashes between January and September of this year.

Beaton’s posted pictures of their sighting on their Facebook page.   The boatyard is located at the northern end of the Barnegat Bay, just south of the Mantoloking Bridge.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Center which monitors and cares for distressed seals and other marine wildlife urges boaters to slow down.

“Watch out for our slow tropical friends, give them lots of space and slow down,” MMSC said.

If you see a manatee or seal in distress in the Barnegat Bay, you should call the MMSC.

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“The best way to inform us of stranded animals is to call us,” the said.  “Please call 609-266-0538 to report stranded marine mammals and sea turtles.”

Manatees in New Jersey are not a new phenomenon.  In 2009, MMSC successfully rescued a manatee named Ilya who was going into hypothermia in the cold Jersey water.

“After a few days of stabilization at our facility we found him a ride to Florida via the US Coast Guard Atlantic City, who was heading that way on a training mission,” the said. “Ilya spent a few months in rehab and was successfully released back into Florida’s waters.”

The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration also advises New Jersey residents that it is illegal to feed or harass marine mammals.

“Feeding, attempting to feed, or otherwise harassing marine mammals in the wild was made illegal because it is harmful to the animals,” the NOAA said.  “It causes marine mammals to lose their natural wariness of humans or boats and become conditioned to receiving handouts and associate people with food, It changes their natural behaviors, including feeding and migration activities, and decreases their willingness to forage for food on their own. They may also begin to take bait/catch from fishing gear.”

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These changed behaviors may be passed on to their young and other members of their social groups and increases their risk of injury from boats, entanglement in fishing gear, and intentional harm by people frustrated with the behavioral changes, according to the NOAA.

“Some of the items that are fed to marine mammals may be contaminated (old or spoiled) or not food at all. Feeding marine mammals inappropriate food, non-food items, or contaminated food jeopardizes their health,” an online notice read.

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Viewing of marine mammals should be done at a safe distance to allow the animal to be uninterrupted in their activities.   You should never attempt to swim with or touch dolphins, manatees, seals or other marine mammals you might encounter in the water.

Those caught and accused of violating the Marine Protection Act can be subjected to fines of up to $11,000, up to one year in prison and forfeiture of their vessel.

Photos by Beaton’s Boatyard.

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