Brevard's Marine Mammals

Posted by Beach Towne Team on Monday, January 7th, 2013 at 4:02pm.

Over half a million people call Brevard County, Florida home. It's no wonder that we do, with sub-tropical weather, gorgeous tropical landscapes, beaches, and the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon as our backyards. Living in a sub-tropical climate rich in history and environmental diversity are just two perks living here. Have a bad day? Jog to the beach and watch or catch the waves for a while. Hop in a kayak and meander down the Banana River, Indian River, Syke's Creek or through the many canals and streams.

It's easy to get lost in nature here. You're never more than a few minutes from the beach or a park or the Indian River Lagoon. And you're never far from the vast plant, animal and marine life which call this county home, too. Many endangered marine mammals live in or migrate to the waters in and around Brevard every year, including numerous types of whales, dolphins and manatees.

A manatee in captivity at Sea World. Source:  Creative Commons

Manatees, a native species to Florida, tend to stay near warmer water sources in the winter, but are found in much of Florida's coastal waters during the rest of the year. In Brevard, you can view manatees from the platform on the Haulover Canal at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Northern Brevard, and perhaps catch a glimpse of them in the Indian River Lagoon.

Experts estimate several hundred bottlenosed dolphins call the Indian River Lagoon their permanent home. Just paddle around or take a boat out into the lagoon and more than likely you will see some. Several known types of whales migrate to the Atlantic Ocean off Brevard County, including the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, endangered Fin and Sei whales, and vulnerable Humpback and Sperm whales.

Of particular concern is the North Atlantic Right Whale, of which 300 to 400 remain in total. Every year, right whales make their way from their feeding grounds off Canadian shores to the warm coastal waters of Georgia and Florida, their only known calving grounds. In these warm southern waters, designated in 1994 by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as right whale critical habitat, the whales give birth and nurse their calves close to the shore from mid-November through mid-April.

 North Atlantic Right Whale and calf, photo from NOAA

Right whales are often visible from the beach. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the current largest threats to right whales are collisions with ships and fishing gear entanglements. The same goes for Fin, Sei, Humpback and Sperm whales. Getting within 100 yards of marine mammals is illegal, and the limits are stricter for more seriously endangered species like the right whale -- getting within 500 yards of right whales is illegal.

Every year, the Marine Resources Council (MRC) located in Palm Bay hosts free classes for hundreds of local volunteers around Brevard County, to help identify right whales and report the sightings to their hot line, 1-888-97-WHALE (1-888-979-4253). Many volunteer spotters live in high rise beach-side condos, and report right whale sightings to help track the whales' movement and behavior patterns along the Atlantic Coast in an effort to determine migration characteristics of these highly endangered marine mammals (FWC).

The volunteer program is part of an on-going effort to save this species as it faces a high likelihood of extinction, mainly due to human activities. In addition to volunteer spotters, researchers fly Early Warning System aerial surveys to locate animals during the calving season, to relay location information to mariners in an attempt to prevent vessel-whale collisions. NMFS and the U.S. Coast Guard also developed and implemented Mandatory Ship Reporting systems (MSR) in July 1999 to help reduce collisions.

If you live in Brevard County, or if you're even here just for the winter, you, too, can become a volunteer right whale spotter and do your part to help save the amazing North Atlantic right whale from extinction. Contact MRC for more information or visit MRCIRL.org

Don't live in Brevard County yet? You could watch for right whales from a beachside condo, too! Take a peek at the latest beachside condos listed below.

Or spot bottlenosed dolphins or manatees from a canal-front home on the Banana River or an ocean-front home!
Here are the latest waterfront homes for sale: 



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