APOLLO BEACH, Fla. – Temperatures in the 50s led to quite the scene outside a power plant discharge station in Central Florida with hundreds of marine animals spotted basking in the warm, sunlit waters.
This time of year, manatee spottings near the Tampa Electric power plant are common, but what made Tuesday’s event more unique was the addition of hundreds of other fish, including dozens of sharks.
Chris Shriver, director of animal care at The Florida Aquarium, said species such as sharks and manatees have been getting along for millions of years, so while the event may seem shocking at first, it’s all part of coexisting in the same habitat.
"The sharks are migrating. They’re just moving through the area, looking around, seeing what’s there and continuing to move on up or down the coast," Shriver said.
Manatees favor the Apollo Beach area during the late fall and winter months because of warm water discharge from the power plant.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the giant sea cows depend on water that is warmer than 68 degrees Fahrenheit and usually springs or power plants provide the needed warmth.
Experts estimate the manatee population to be around 13,000, with nearly half being found in the Southeast and Puerto Rico.
Because of increasing populations, manatees are no longer considered endangered but are still protected under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species.