Marine Mammal Rescue and Research team members from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) have been fielding reports of manatee sightings from Barnstable to Chatham since August 19.
Our team has observed the animal on several occasions, and it is currently active and visually appears to be in good health. It is unusual, but not unheard of, for a manatee to travel this far north. Typically they are found in warmer southern waters, as they cannot survive for long periods in water consistently below 68 degrees.
Currently the summer water temperatures in Nantucket Sound where the manatee has been sighted are well above that temperature threshold.
The best case scenario is that the manatee begins swimming south on its own before local waters cool, avoiding the need for, and challenges of, a rescue attempt.
Like the dolphins, whales and seals that our team normally responds to under our permit from NOAA, manatees are protected under federal law. However, manatees fall under the jurisdiction of a different federal agency, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). So ultimately they will decide if and when there needs be an intervention.
The idea is to give the animal ample time to move out naturally on its own, while monitoring the manatee in case its health begins to deteriorate.
In 2008, IFAW worked with FWS and other agencies to attempt the rescue of another manatee that had stayed too long in Cape waters, but unfortunately that animal died enroute to a rehabilitation facility.
A year later in 2009, another manatee was observed in Cape Cod Bay, but eventually safely navigated its way out of New England waters as the temperatures dropped.
Currently IFAW’s team is helping FWS establishing contingency plans in the event that a rescue attempt is deemed necessary.
In the meantime, IFAW is working closely with local harbormasters, natural resource departments and other groups to monitor the manatee and help warn boaters to keep a safe distance, for their safety and that of the manatee, since vessel strikes are one of the leading causes of manatee mortality.
We’ll keep you posted as the situation develops.
Article source: IFAW