Manatees In Nassau Harbour

Photo: Edward Russell III, The Nassau Guardian

The Department of Marine Resources wishes to inform the public of the recent activities undertaken in respect of the recent appearance of two manatees in the eastern part of Nassau Harbour.

The presence of two manatees, also sometimes called sea cows, was reported to the Department of Marine Resources on Tuesday 11 October, 2011. The manatees were identified as a mother and calf and were immediately suspected to be Rita and Georgie, manatees that, until a few weeks ago, were resident in the area of Spanish Wells, North Eleuthera.

Although all marine mammals, such as whales dolphins and manatees, are protected in The Bahamas under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, it was recognised that the presence of these manatees in Nassau Harbour placed them at considerable risk from a number of hazards, the principal of which being the high volume of boating traffic.

A Marine Mammal Response Team from Atlantis was called upon to assist with the identification of the manatees and was authorised by the Department of Marine Resources to capture the manatees and relocate them to a safe and secure location where their health could be evaluated and they could be maintained until a decision was made in respect of their disposition.

The manatees were positively identified as Rita and Georgie. It is not known what caused them to leave the North Eleuthera area and move to Nassau Harbour. The capture attempts on Tuesday 11 October were not successful. On Saturday 15 October 2011 both mother and calf were successfully captured and transported to a secure facility on Paradise Island. The captures and transport of the manatees were undertaken under the direct observation and supervision of the Department of Marine Resources. The manatees are not on display and initial reports indicate that they are both doing well.

Although manatees may have been more common in The Bahamas historically, the manatees observed within the country in recent times have been identified as visitors form Florida.

The Department of Marine Resources wishes to thank the members of the public who assisted in various ways with the effort to place the manatees in safely. This includes the reporting of the presence and movements of the manatees, and providing advice that ended in safe and successful captures.

The Department of Marine Resources notes with thanks the continued cooperation and assistance of the Response Team from Atlantis in respect of this matter and their assistance in responding to strandings of marine mammals in The Bahamas.

Department of Marine Resources