Florida West Indian Manatee Mermaid stories became prevalent in Europe about the time of the early Portuguese explorations along the West African Coast and it is supposed that they were based on sightings of these animals in the shallow bays which the ships visited.
Christopher Columbus gets credit for the first written record of manatees in North America, ones he saw near the Dominican Republic in 1492. West Indian manatees, also called Florida manatees, are resident in peninsular Florida and occur in the Caribbean and along the Gulf coast to Mexico. During summer, some wander as far north as the Carolinas and one named Chesapeake went to the Chesapeake Bay twice. He wrote about the mermaids lifting their heads out of the water near Haiti. Sailors that saw the mermaids often gave the mermaids the name Sirenia. The name came from Homer’s tales of sea nymphs. Manatees don’t fit the seductive image of the sea nymphs that are portrayed, but the men had been at sea for a very long time.
What is Killing Them?
According to the February 2007 count of manatees in Florida by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission there were only 2817 manatees remaining in Florida. As of August 31, 2007, 247 manatees were killed, 59 of these by watercraft. Additionally, four were killed by other human action. If you see a dead or injured manatee or one that’s been harassed while in Florida, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s toll-free hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC. Lastly, as a visitor to our tropical paradise, do not approach, touch, feed or water manatees.