Acoustic Breakthrough Could Erase Manatee Mortality from Watercraft Hits!

The Florida Manatee Photo Courtesy – US Fish and Wildlife Service

Greetings! Today I have some wonderful news for you regarding an acoustic breakthrough, which could actually diminish manatee deaths from watercraft! As you probably already know, we manatees are very slow moving. We are also marine mammals meaning we need to breath air every five minutes or so to survive. One of the biggest problems in Florida has to do with watercraft strikes on manatees as we surface for air. The boat’s propellers and hulls can create very serious or even mortal wounds. In fact, you probably have seen pictures of manatees with scar patterns on our backs or tails resulting from boat strikes.

Scientists use these scar patterns to identify us. Now that’s not good thing is it! Unfortunately, 2016 was the worst year yet for manatee mortality at 104 deaths due to watercraft strikes. Here’s an annual count of manatee deaths due to boat strikes over the past 5 years…

2016 – 104

2015 – 86

2014 – 69

2013 – 73

2012 – 82

Manatee scientists explain, “unless this cause of death is controlled, the manatee population will not recover.”

An Acoustic Remedy to Decrease Manatee Mortality

Now for the good news! Marine mammal scientists Edmund Gerstein and Laura Gerstein who live in Boca Raton, Florida say they created an acoustic solution to solve manatee mortality from watercraft strikes.

Edmund Gerstein is the Director of marine mammal research at Florida Atlantic University. He and his wife Laura founded the research group called Leviathan Legacy, Incorporated some 20 years ago. During this time, they discovered manatees have a difficult time hearing low frequency sounds coming from boat engines and boat propellers. The Gerstein’s discovery also found that manatees are very good at detecting high frequency sounds, especially sounds between 16,000 and 18,000 Hz. As a result, they invented a “submerged alarm system that shoots a beam of high frequency sound from the front of the boat, warning manatees to steer clear.”

They used buoys and tested their new product at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Cape Canaveral, Florida. Their test involved measuring distances “at which manatees fled from a single approaching boat with either an alarm or no alarm.”

Here are the impressive results of the test…

…”The scientists found that manatees reacted to boat alarms in 39 of 41 tests, swimming away from buoys when the boat was 20 meters away on average. When confronted by non-alarm boats, the marine mammals only responded in 4 of 82 trials. When the manatees did not respond, the boat veered away to avoid hitting them.”

Edmund Gerstein estimates that these alarms could be put out in the market for around $100 each. He said, “I think they should be part of the equipment that is required for boaters. The best thing you can do is empower the animal itself by giving it sensory awareness.” And I couldn’t agree more!

If you are in Florida and you see a sick or injured manatee, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: 1-888-404-FWCC. They are the folks who are responsible for rescuing us in Florida.

Here’s the Save the Manatee Club link to learn more about us manatees …

Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …

~ Kobee Manatee