Manatees Flock to Florida Power Plant for Warmth

   01.10.12

It’s been a chilly new year for Florida manatees, bad news for the temperature-sensitive marine mammals. Fortunately, Florida Power & Light officials came to the rescue during last week’s temperature lows, turning on the heater at the site of their former power plant in Riviera Beach, near the Palm Beach inlet.

Manatees are known to aggregate in warm-water outfalls at power plants on cold winter days, and those in the area didn’t waste any time in flocking to this site – click here to check out some amazing footage of the gathering. (Hint: watch until 0:47 to see some synchronized sea cow swimming!)

Loss of warm-water habitat now poses the greatest long-term threat to manatee survival. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reported last week that a cold-related die-off of manatees in early 2011 contributed to the high numbers of deaths for the species for the year. Scientists predict cold weather will continue to be a problem for the manatee population over the next few decades when aging electric power plants will be shutting down. The FPL plant itself was demolished last year, but the power company is required to warm the water when it falls below 65 degrees until it completes construction of its new natural gas facility in 2014.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on an emergency rule to expand protected areas for Florida manatees, creating a refuge that includes all of Kings Bay in Crystal River. The rules will ensure the sea cows will have greater access to critical warm water areas during the winter months and address public concerns associated with local, wintertime manatee viewing activities.

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