The Wonders All Around

Boat owners, sailing enthusiasts and others who enjoy spending time on the water are often quite surprised by the sheer variety and quantity of marine life they encounter in and around their local marina. Even “landlubber” fishermen – those who like to keep both feet firmly planted on dry land, thank you very much – find themselves surrounded by a panoply of strange and wonderful creatures.

Determining the Cast of Characters

There are several factors that determine what species of marine life are likely to be present at a marina. The most important are the local climate and water type (fresh or saltwater). In many cases the current season must also be taken into account, and the wildlife in oceanic marinas is also heavily influenced by the major ocean current(s) passing through the area.

Example: the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are a collection of five large freshwater lakes in the northeastern United States. Portions of the Lakes straddle the Canadian border and extend into Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York State. The Lakes also account for 21% of Earth’s fresh water. Because they are so massive, the Great Lakes are teeming with an assortment of fish, crustaceans, mollusks and amphibians. Along the coastal areas (where a marina would be located), large crayfish, bass, pike, muskelunge and alewife, a bothersome invasive species whose sheer numbers threaten to cause serious imbalances in the local ecosystems. Alewife isn’t the only invasive species in the Great Lakes, however. Unquestionably the most famous such species is the zebra mussel, a small mollusk mistakenly introduced to the Great Lakes by a series of ships traveling along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Zebra mussels are usually the size of a fingernail and bear distinctive striped markings resembling those of zebras. These mussels have razor-sharp shells that frequently slice the feet of swimmers and divers.

Example: The Florida Coast

The balmy waters along Florida’s Atlantic coast are brimming with many brightly-colored, exotic creatures, including several turtle species. Marina visitors are especially likely to encounter baby turtles because they hatch from eggs buried in shoreline sand. Once they’re completely free of their shells, the turtles head into the water, where they will spend most of their lives. Many of Florida’s marinas, particularly smaller, more remote locations, attract dolphins. Dolphins are highly intelligent and social animals that seem to enjoy human interaction, and are especially likely to appear at marinas located directly on the coast (as opposed to those that are further inland).

It’s Not All Fun And Games

No discussion about marine wildlife would be complete without sharks. Shark species are found in all seas and oceans, and several species (including the deadly tiger shark) have traveled a considerable distance inland by swimming up a river. Most sharks are naturally shy around people and would rather swim away than attempt to eat a human. Of course, some species (most notably the great white, tiger and bull) are bolder and much more likely to treat a swimmer like a potential snack. Many beaches have installed shark nets several hundred feet out from the shore; these are quite effective at preventing sharks from taking a bite out of anyone. Marinas, however, cannot use shark nets because they would be destroyed by the propellors of the boats entering and exiting the area. Even without the nets, shark attacks in marinas are exceedingly rare because the animals are wary of the constant noise and high activity levels. As an extra precaution, it’s best not to swim in any ocean waters that lack shark protection.

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