DISL researches how water construction impacts manatees

Local News

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – The Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Manatee Sighting Network just published an article in the Journal of Wildlife Management about how bridge and other in-water construction projects such as boat launches, docks, ports, and dredging, impact the wildlife, including manatees, in our waterways.

With many large local water projects, including the possible construction of the Mobile River Bridge, the Manatee Sighting Network contributes data to a report that outlines how the project could impact the environment.

“Things like increased risks of vessel strikes…there is a lot more boating activity in the area. Also materials can block access to resources like vegetation for manatees. Or could potentially cause risks for entanglement or ingestion if construction materials are not discarded properly,” says Elizabeth Hieb with the Manatee Sighting Network. Pile driving and dredging also stirs up the water and can possibly release contaminants and have a negative impact on the manatee’s food sources.

Hieb says that manatee sightings have increased over the last decade or so. An estimated fifty to one hundred manatees seasonally reside in our waterways. Data has also shown that the manatees are sticking around longer, and these animals can tell us a lot about our environment.

“We like to see manatees doing well because it is a great indicator of how the ecosystem is doing. In a place like Alabama or Mississippi where manatees are increasingly using these waters… Maybe we are not as used to having to worry about them when we are doing construction,” Hieb said.  

Hieb says that training construction crews to be on the lookout for manatees, cleaning up construction materials properly, and advanced planning can really help reduce the risks to these animals.

To report a manatee sighting, click here or call 1-866-493-5803.

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