Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

May 7, 2019 by  
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Captain Ross Files sees ripples on the surface of the water down a side canal and instructs Captain Steve Browning to turn in that direction. Files sprints up a ladder to sit on top of the boat, his bare feet and legs dangling, as he looks for more telltale signs in the water. After a minute, he admits defeat. “No, I don’t think that’s a ‘tee!” he calls back to Browning. The early sun rays illuminate the Crystal River in Florida as eight other tourists wearing wetsuits and snorkels share a boat— dreaming of swimming with manatees. By manatee standards, we’re a few weeks late. Cold winter waters in the Gulf of Mexico force manatees to seek warmer climes. Spring-fed Crystal River, 78 miles north of Tampa, provides a winning temperature for pods of manatees. About 700 manatees spent last winter here, but by early April the gulf is warmer than the river, so most manatees have vanished— which is why our captains are having to work so hard. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability Florida is the only place in North America that you can legally swim with manatees. To animal lovers, this is an awesome opportunity, but one that can weigh on your conscience. While you many want to swim with manatees, the important question here is,  do manatees want to swim with you? Does raising tourists’ awareness help manatees? Biologists and conservationists are studying these questions and devising best practices for manatee tourism. History of Manatee Tourism After being placed on the Endangered Species List in 1967, before that they were widely hunted, the manatee population increased. Crystal River is currently the epicenter of manatee tourism. Coast Heritage Museum of Crystal River volunteer Maryann Jarrell, said back in the 1940s the river was extremely clear, giving one entrepreneur the idea to launch glass bottom boat tours. When Jarrell moved to Crystal River in 1971, the water was still stunningly clear and full of wildlife . “You didn’t need a rod and reel,” she told me. “Just put a net out and one of those fish was going to jump in it.” Once people discovered Crystal River, the water stopped being so clear. New residents built septic tanks, landscaped their riverfront houses and fertilized lawns. Runoff turned the water mucky. Despite the decrease in water clarity, the increased number of manatees opened up new tourism opportunities. Boats started taking out paying customers and dropping them in the water with manatees. Tourism became even more important after the Crystal River nuclear power plant shut down permanently in 2013, eliminating hundreds of jobs. “Before anybody could get a handle on it, there was this whole economy in that county based on people being able to swim with the manatees,” explained Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation at Save the Manatee Club. “Then it became a matter of not hurting business and not wanting to take that part of the economy away.” Now there’s a tension between allowing people to see manatees in the wild, but not hampering their reason for being in Citrus County, Tripp tells me. Best Practices for Manatee Tourism Dozens of boats are anchored in known party spot Homosassa cove, which is 10 miles south of Crystal River. Suddenly somebody spots a manatee and a couple of swimmers begin a hot pursuit, driving the manatee towards shore. Once it can’t go any farther without beaching itself, one swimmer encourages another to reach out and touch the manatee. This scenario contradicts everything we learned about passive observation from the boat guides and the 7-minute film “Manatee Manners,” which we watched before our swim encounter. Yet, even guides find themselves debating the finer points of passive observation— should you touch a manatee? Captains Mike and Stacy Dunn, owners of Manatees in Paradise, enacted a strict hands off policy for their company about five years ago. Despite naysayers swearing they’d lose customers, Mike Dunn said business improved and drew more respectful clientele. “We got away from the petting zoo mentality,” he said. When they do catch a customer trying to cop a feel, they send the swimmer back to the boat. Both Dunn and Tripp acknowledged that guides sometimes feel pressure to produce friendly manatees for the tourists. Most companies sell videos after the tour and customers are likelier to buy the video if it captures them interacting with manatees. Instead of selling the video for $40 like other companies do, the Dunns give the customers video for free— if they behave. “If they do touch a manatee, they don’t get the video at all.” Tripp has been working with the Manatee Ecotourism Association to develop best practices for manatee tourism and to start a certification program called Guardian Guides. To qualify, tour operators must adhere to strict standards, including varying the times and locations of their tours, insisting that patrons wear wetsuits and use additional flotation devices to decrease splashing, accompanying guests in the water and making sure everybody keeps their hands off the manatees. So far, Manatees in Paradise and Crystal River Watersports are the only two companies certified. Tripp would like to see manatees get their fair share of the tourism pie. “Even though the industry has been growing and growing exponentially, I’m not seeing tons more money go into manatee conservation,” she said. “I’m not seeing tons more people write letters on conservation issues.” Dunn sees an upside of tourism for the manatees. Since guides are in the water every day, they’re often the first to know when a manatee is in distress and proceed to contact authorities and often help in rescuing and rehabbing manatees. Dunn is also in close touch with manatee researchers, reporting on day-to-day behaviors he observes. The Manatee Experience The group climbs stealthily down the boat ladder. The water is murky, but Files assures us a manatee is nearby. Then suddenly this enormous thing appears out of the depths, floating silently like a blimp. It comes up, takes a breath then sinks back down as if we imagined the whole thing. Afterwards, on the boat, we’re awed. We’re on a manatee high. These creatures are so huge, quiet and alien. We got to slip into their world for just a moment. In the future, maybe the group will take Tripp’s advice and watch manatees from a boardwalk, where we’ll be able to see more of their authentic group behavior. But for now, we wouldn’t trade our up-close experience. Via  Manatee Ecotourism Association ,  Crystal River Watersports ,  Save the Manatee Club , Manatees in Paradise Images via Inhabitat, Manatees in Paradise

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Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

Load up on Tabasco while you can – because the island it comes from is being swallowed by the sea

April 4, 2018 by  
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If your idea of the perfect Bloody Mary involves a dash of Tabasco, better stock up while you can. Over one hundred miles west of New Orleans , Avery Island, the birthplace of Tabasco sauce, is disappearing as its land slowly washes away with the sea. As with much of the American Gulf Coast, Avery Island is plagued by rising sea levels, erosion, and human-caused environmental damage. Despite Avery Island’s relatively high elevation at 163 feet above sea level, the island is losing 30 feet of wetland per year due to saltwater encroaching via canals dug by the oil and gas industry. Meanwhile, the island’s elevation is shrinking by a third-of-an-inch each year. Tony Simmons is the latest in a long line of McIlhenny family members to lead the company that has produced Tabasco sauce for 150 years. Simmons’s ancestor Edmund McIlhenny first began making Tabasco sauce after discovering a particularly well-suited pepper plant growing behind a chicken coop on Avery Island, a long-time refuge now retreating. “It does worry us, and we are working hard to minimize the land loss,” Simmons told the Guardian . “We want to protect the marsh because the marsh protects us.” Related: This Louisiana craft beer pioneer ‘went green’ long before it was cool Technically, Tabasco isn’t going anywhere. If Avery Island continues to shrink, McIllhenny may someday have to consider relocating away from its historic homeland. “We don’t think it will come to that, but we are working to do everything we can to make sure it won’t happen to us,” said Simmons. “I mean, we could make Tabasco somewhere else. But this is more than a business: this is our home.” If the island experiences an additional sea level rise of two feet, which is widely expected to occur, only the highest points of the island will be safe. Despite the resilience of the people who live there, the future of Avery Island and similar communities in Louisiana looks stormy. “It is a ripped-up rug. It would take decades to put it back together, even without sea level rise ,” Oliver Houck, an expert in land loss at Tulane University, explained to the Guardian . “Avery Island is going to become an actual island, there won’t be much left. The state has decided to put all its eggs into restoring the eastern part of the state. I hate to use the words ‘written off’, but those coastal communities are on their own.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 2 ) and Paul Arps/Flickr

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Load up on Tabasco while you can – because the island it comes from is being swallowed by the sea

BP fine for Gulf of Mexico oil spill will not exceed $13.7 billion

January 19, 2015 by  
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A federal judge determined this week that BP will face a maximum fine of $13.7 billion for its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, saying that the oil spill was not as extensive as United States officials claimed. This penalty is several billion dollars less than environmental activists were hoping for. Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Read the rest of BP fine for Gulf of Mexico oil spill will not exceed $13.7 billion Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: 2010 BP oil spill , BP , BP fine , BP oil , BP oil cleanup , bp oil spill , british petroleum , Carl Barbier , clean water act , deepwater horizon , determination , fines , gulf of mexico , gulf of mexico oil spill , judge , magistrate , oil spill , penalties

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BP fine for Gulf of Mexico oil spill will not exceed $13.7 billion

There Are Still 2 Million Barrels of BP’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Hanging Out in the Gulf of Mexico

October 29, 2014 by  
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A new study by a team from the University of California-Santa Barbara, University of California-Irvine, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has found that there are still two million barrels-worth of oil from BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster sitting on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. The study, published October 27, 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes a “bathtub ring” of oil droplets covering an area of the seabed larger than Rhode Island. Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Read the rest of There Are Still 2 Million Barrels of BP’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Hanging Out in the Gulf of Mexico Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: deepwater horizon , environmental disaster , gulf of mexico , macondo well , oil drilling , oil droplets , oil gulf of mexico , oil slick , oil spill , sea bed , sea floor , university of california

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There Are Still 2 Million Barrels of BP’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Hanging Out in the Gulf of Mexico

Old Cigarette Factory to Become Solar and Wind Battery Plant

October 29, 2014 by  
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Normally when a massive factory closes its doors an outlet mall or giant water park pops up in its place. But one former cigarette plant in Concord, North Carolina is turning into something completely unexpected. Swiss battery manufacturer Alveo announced plans to turn a 3.5 million square-foot cigarette factory into a facility that makes batteries for solar and wind farms. Read the rest of Old Cigarette Factory to Become Solar and Wind Battery Plant Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “wind power” , Cigarette factory , cigarette factory to battery factory , Philip Morris factory , renewable energy , renewable power batteries , solar batteries , Solar Power , Tesla batteries , wind batteries

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Old Cigarette Factory to Become Solar and Wind Battery Plant

Oceana Report Reveals the Horrifying Cost of By-Catch in US Fisheries

March 24, 2014 by  
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The human appetite for fish has caused a great deal of trouble for the well-being of the world’s oceans. A single animal on your dinner plate can translate into hundreds of pounds of “by-catch” – organisms thrown back after being hauled up by nets, lines, and trawls. According to a new report released by Oceana , every year 2 billion pounds of sea life captured by US fisheries is damaged or killed and thrown right back into the sea. Their detailed research exposes the nine worst by-catch fisheries around the country, and which harvesting methods are the most harmful to the environment. Read the rest of Oceana Report Reveals the Horrifying Cost of By-Catch in US Fisheries Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: by-catch , California , endangered species , gillnet , gulf of mexico , longline fishing , marine ecosystem , marine mammals , molas , monterey bay aquarium , national marine fisheries service , north atlantic , ocean biodiversity , ocean health , Oceana , S.H.R.I.M.P. , sea turtles , seafood watch program , sharks , trawling , us fisheries        

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Oceana Report Reveals the Horrifying Cost of By-Catch in US Fisheries

Stara Kopalnia Coal Mine and 16 Buildings to be Repurposed as a Massive Public Complex in Poland

March 24, 2014 by  
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Read the rest of Stara Kopalnia Coal Mine and 16 Buildings to be Repurposed as a Massive Public Complex in Poland Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: adaptive reuse , amphitheater , coal mine , design studio , gallery , Museum , Nizio Design International , Old Mine , Poland , Stara Kopalnia , Walbrzych        

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Stara Kopalnia Coal Mine and 16 Buildings to be Repurposed as a Massive Public Complex in Poland

Floating Seawer Skyscraper Rids the World’s Oceans of Plastic While Generating Clean Energy

March 24, 2014 by  
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Read the rest of Floating Seawer Skyscraper Rids the World’s Oceans of Plastic While Generating Clean Energy Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: evolo 2014 , eVolo 2014 Skyscraper Competition , Garbage Seascraper , Garbage-collecting Seascraper , great pacific garbage patch , ocean garbage , ocean waste , Seawer skyscraper , skyscraper evolo 2014 , waste collection        

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Floating Seawer Skyscraper Rids the World’s Oceans of Plastic While Generating Clean Energy

Over 168,000 Gallons of Oil Spills into Ecologically Sensitive Galveston Bay

March 24, 2014 by  
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A barge moving through Galveston Bay collided with another ship Saturday afternoon, spilling over 168,000 gallons of marine fuel oil. The spill is particularly devastating, even though it isn’t the largest in recent memory , because Galveston Bay is a migratory bird habitat and shorebird season is fast approaching. On top of that, the type of fuel that spilled is particularly difficult to clean up. The ship was being towed when it collided with the other vessel, though there are no details at this point on how the collision occurred. Read the rest of Over 168,000 Gallons of Oil Spills into Ecologically Sensitive Galveston Bay Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary , environmental destruction , environmental disaster , Galveston Bay bird sanctuary , Galveston Bay disaster , Galveston Bay ecological disaster , Galveston Bay oil disaster , Galveston Bay oil shipping , Galveston Bay oil spill , Galveston Bay shorebirds , Galveston Bay spill , Galveston Oil Spill , Galveston Spill , Galveston Texas Oil Spill , Galveston Texas spill , Migratory Bird oil spill , Migratory Bird Sanctuary , oil spill response , US Coast Guard , USCG , USCG oil spill response        

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Over 168,000 Gallons of Oil Spills into Ecologically Sensitive Galveston Bay

BP Oil Exports Disrupted as 14-Foot Marlin Attacks a Rig Hose in Angola

March 21, 2014 by  
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While human activists protest the fossil fuel industry on land, some underwater residents are taking matters into their own fins. In early February, BP had to reduce exports of Angolan Plutonio crude oil after an Atlantic blue marlin impaled a hose at its floating production and storage facility. The 14-foot fish did enough damage to cost the company $100 million in revenue, keeping 900,000 barrels of oil from reaching the market. Read the rest of BP Oil Exports Disrupted as 14-Foot Marlin Attacks a Rig Hose in Angola Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Angola , angolan plutonio crude oil , BP , bp deepwater horizon spill , environmental damage , fossil fuel industry , gulf of mexico , International Energy Agency , marlin , Oil Platform , oil production , oil rig , swordfish        

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BP Oil Exports Disrupted as 14-Foot Marlin Attacks a Rig Hose in Angola

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