The salty waters surrounding South Padre Island are home to various marine wildlife, but some islanders were in for a surprise on a recent afternoon when a manatee made an appearance at a local boat dock on the northwest side of the Island, according to Parrot Eyes Water Sports employee Ryan Fuentes.
Fuentes, originally from Miami, is familiar with manatees from his native state but said he hadn’t see one in about nine years. Fuentes said the manatee swam under the pier in search of fresh water to drink.
Fuentes was able to document the encounter by recording a video with his iPhone. The manatee reportedly appeared to be in good health and didn’t have any cuts or injuries.
Tony Reisinger, the Cameron County extension agent for coastal and marine resources with Texas Sea Grant at Texas A&M University, has lived in the area for 32 years and has only heard of a handful of reported manatee sightings here.
Resinger noted that manatees are endangered and are protected by the Marine Mammal and the Endangered Species Acts.
According to Reisinger, manatees can weigh as much as a ton to a ton and a half, but the one spotted near the South Padre Island appeared smaller from the pictures.
Reisinger said the reason for the sighting is unknown but may have occurred for different reasons such as migration, mating or grazing on the lush sea grass meadows common in the Laguna Madre.
Christina R. Garza
The arrival of the USS Independence at the Port of Brownsville has been delayed by fears on the part of environmental regulators that some of the preparations for the ship’s departure from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard were polluting the water there.
According to a Jan. 10 article from the “Kitsap Sun,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology were concerned that the scraping of the ship’s hull by Navy divers — necessary to limit the spread of invasive species during the 16,000-mile trip to Texas — was putting toxic amounts of copper-based paint into the water and harming marine life.
On Jan. 6, divers began the weeks-long process of scraping a three-inch-deep layer of barnacles and other marine growth from the hull, according to the article. International Shipbreaking Ltd., part of the EMR Group, last August won the Navy contract to dismantle the mothballed “supercarrier,” commissioned in 1959 and decommissioned in 1998.
This will be the company’s third carrier. International Shipbreaking took delivery of the decommissioned USS Constellation in January 2015 and the retired USS Ranger in July 2015.
The Independence originally was scheduled to leave the Navy facility near Bremerton, Wash., under tow roughly two months ago and arrive in Brownsville in late February or mid-March. The original estimate was that the trip would take 4 1/2 months using an ocean-going tugboat.
Robert Berry, International Shipbreaking vice president, said the latest estimate is closer to two months since the company has elected to bring in an actual towing ship, which is faster than a tug. The issue that was preventing the vessel from leaving has been resolved, meanwhile, and the Independence should be ready to embark on its final journey as soon as the tow vessel arrives, he said.
“We don’t know exactly when,” Berry said. “Probably somewhere around the middle of February.”
The trip will take the Independence south from Puget Sound to the tip of South America, where it will navigate the Strait of Magellan before heading north up the eastern coast of South America to the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and finally the Brownsville Ship Channel. Berry said it should be relatively smooth sailing once the vessels get far enough south.
“It’s winter time here (in Bremerton), so it’ll be a little rough getting out of here, but down south its summertime,” he said. “It’s never really good weather down there, but it’s much better weather than normal.”
Much like a little puppy, the young brown pelican follows people around. Wildlife rehabbers Dr. Ronald Hines and his wife, Gloria, said the little guy is used to people and loves to be around them.
“He’s real gentle. I talk to him while he eats,” Gloria said. This behavior is definitely a step up from one week ago, when he was found sick, without his mama, along the highway.
Animal lover Renee Lockett was the one who reached out to the Hines for help after receiving a call about the stranded pelican on Thanksgiving Day. The lone and lethargic creature was found off of Highway 48 near Port Isabel. The poor little guy was all alone and in distress.
“When I got a call about a young brown pelican in distress next to parked cars off of Highway 48, I quickly called certified wildlife rehabber Dr. Ronald Hines and his wife, Gloria, to see if they had room to take the pelican,” Lockett said.
The pair gladly took the animal under their care at their home in Brownsville. Hines, a retired veterinarian, has more than 60 years of experience rehabbing animals. In the past, he has worked with a circus and Sea World. The couple also has extensive experience rehabilitating other birds.
The young pelican was weak, had an eye infection, was unable to fly and was covered in bird mites. Brown pelicans must fly up and dive down into the water to catch fish to eat, so without help, chances are it would not have survived, Hines said.
Since the day after Thanksgiving, Hines and his wife have spent some time with the pelican, which Hines said is abnormally tame.
He’s young, part of this year’s hatch, probably six months old, Hines said. He has imprinted on people, which is something Hines said pelicans don’t usually do. “He follows you around,” Hines said.
He said his main concern is whether the bird can take care of himself in the wild. Young pelicans learn to fish from their parents. Hines said this pelican has yet to learn to fish for himself.
This leads Gloria to believe that perhaps the pelican’s mother was killed.
The next thing Hines plans to do is test the animal’s flying abilities. That will determine whether he can be released into the wild or not. If not, Hines said he will do his best to find him a permanent sanctuary.
After getting the bird’s care under control, they soon realized another hurdle, food. A bird of that size needs fresh fish to eat. Lockett was prepared to pay however much it would cost to help this bird in need.
“I went to Gordon’s Bait & Tackle Shop and spoke with the co-owner, Gary Williams, and his wife, Sherri, about the pelican. I showed them pictures and without hesitation, Mr. Williams kindly offered to donate fish for the pelican’s recovery,” Lockett said.
Williams and his two sisters, Amanda Burres and Sheila Montes, just recently entered into co-owning the shop after their father, Gordon, died about six months ago.
During the years, Williams said the shop has helped several people feed animals.
Anything that is legally caught in the bait boat nets is usually good for donation. So far, Williams has donated about 35 pounds of different types of bait fish, such as perch, whiting and croaker to Hines.
As long as they can, Williams said they will continue to help.
Mark Haggenmiller was ahead of his time when he started brewing hand-crafted beer on the Island in 1995. Since then he has been mixing hops and barley for a family of premium beers available only at the Padre Island Brewing Company. Because of his foresight and his dedication to the craft of brewing beer, Gov. Greg Abbott awarded Haggenmiller withThe Governor’s Small Business Award. Haggenmiller was recognized at the Governor’s Small Business Forum held Oct. 20 at the Brownsville Event Center.
“I was thrilled to find out I was nominated and to find out that I won the award. It makes the 22 years of being in business really worthwhile — with a pat on the back.” He said the number of years the brewery has been in business is a testament to what it means to operate the second-oldest small business brewery in the state. When the Padre Island Brewing Company opened its doors in 1995, theValley debate about beer didn’t extend past choosing between Budweiser or Miller. Though it took some time forValley beerdrinkers to become beer aficionados — that time has now arrived, thanks in large part to the beer Haggenmiller has been brewing and serving at the Padre Island Brewing Company for the past 22 years.
“It just amazes me to see so many people visit our brewery when they visit South Padre,” Haggenmiller said.“It’s an honor to be a part of that tradition.” He said a lot of the success of the business has come from word of mouth, customers recommending the beer. The Padre Island Brewing Company prides itself on being a place conducive to families. You won’t find glow-in-the-dark jello shots there, just a cool dining room filled with sunlight and an impressive craft-brewing laboratory. There’s also no juke-box — the restaurant is filled instead with the chatter of its patrons. “It’s been a fun 22 years and I’m looking forward to the next,” Haggenmiller said.
Red Tide is usually considered a problem for people near affected areas. Red Tide Rangers conducted a cell count this week determining there is no Red Tide in South Padre Island anymore. The increase in Karenia Brevis Algae, otherwise known as Red Tide is now gone. This week the Red Tide Rangers confirm there is 0 cells of this algae per milliliter. This recent bloom lasted a few months.
Tony Reisinger from Sea Grant Texas says, “[last year’s bloom] took the same course it did this year. It started probably in Mexico, in the bay of Campeche and moved north and was blown into South Texas. At the peak of this Red Tide there was approximately 50,000 cells per milliliter. Last year that same statistic was close to 100,000. I’m told however lower numbers don’t automatically translate to a ‘better’ bloom. The aerosol can affect visitor most when other factors such as low winds are present. “There is only theories on why the frequency of Red Tide has increased over the past years. we’ve probably had 15 blooms since 1986 here in south Texas,” says Reisinger.
In Cameron County Beach Access 6, the site where just a few weeks ago dead fish washed up on the shoreline and Air quality made it difficult to breathe, is different today. The air quality seems good and there are no dead fish on the beaches. Red Tide has now moved up to Corpus Christi. This is due to natural current patterns. However, due to the unpredictable nature of red tide it could make a comeback within the same year, though we have not seen that happen in recent times.
City of South Padre Island Media Relations Manager says, “Things are looking great. No more issues, no more fish kills, so we encourage everyone to come visit us. Especially now with the Halloween weekend coming up.” Overall this Red Tide bloom was better in terms of having lower respiratory problem reports and lower cell counts.
By Alfredo Cuadros