Fishing Line Is Not Their Friend

Entangled manatee flipper via FWCC

Florida runs a monofilament recovery program where PVC tubes are setup near critical points along waterways – mainly docks and other fishing structures – to attempt to get anglers to properly dispose of fishing line. The very nature of the material, both invisible and incredibly strong, makes it incredibly deadly for marine wildlife when it becomes debris in their environment. Unfortunately monofilament remains one of the most common trash items around the edges of the Lagoon and throughout Florida’s coastal habitats.

Entanglement in this material is a real issue for marine mammals like manatees. While most school children are taught of the dangers of watercraft and propeller strikes for sea cows, becoming caught in debris is a major concern. Florida Fish and Wildlife recently rescued a manatee off of Key Largo that had carried an entanglement of monofilament around her pectoral flipper for at least two years. When first spotted officials were never able to relocate her to address the injuries to her flipper. Finally on April 30th they were able to coordinate with the Dolphin Research Center and the Miami Seaquarium to bring the female in.

Pretty extreme inflammation and scar tissue around the entangled flipper via FWCC

You can see from the photos that the injury was pretty gnarly with white scar marks visible and incredible tissue growth around the entanglement. I’m betting most of that is scar tissue and long term inflammation. Manatee flippers should be a long smooth plane. Not ballooned up at the veritable ‘armpit’ as shown above. With any luck this female’s injury can be rehabilitated and she’ll be released back into the wild.