Dolphins and Sponges and Ospreys - Oh My!


Fallen Australian Pines on Anclote Island.

This past week we enjoyed a boat cruise from Tarpon Springs, Florida through the Tarpon Bayou to Anclote Island with Sun Line Tours. The picture above shows some of the fallen Australian Pines on Anclote Island that were planted to stop erosion, but due to their non-native species status did more harm than good. They are being allowed to naturally disappear from the small island off the coast of Tarpon Springs.


Osprey nest on Solar-Powered Buoy Light in the Tarpon Bayou.

Throughout the almost 3-hour tour (cue Gilligan's Island theme song here) our commentator-guide, a "naturalist" originally from Boston, provided us with some interesting information about the wildlife we saw along the way. Said wildlife included a manatee, osprey, herons, bald eagles, and even a "nursery" group of bottlenose dolphins while we were out on the open water. This small school of a few female dolphins with about four smaller dolphins swam near the boat for about 20 minutes and then played in our wake. It was a pretty amazing sight!


An attempt at a picture of a dolphin. (So I'm not a nature photographer!)

The other interesting part of this cruise was the history of sponge harvesting in the area of Tarpon Springs — once the sponge capital of the U.S. We've told you about the biomimicry effects of sea sponges and their possible uses in solar cells. The industry began to boom around 1904 when Greek immigrants were brought over with their "new" diving technology. There were hundreds of sponging boats in this small town until, as our guide put it, blight (red algae blooms), among other things, caused the industry to crash in the1940s. The Greeks stayed and now Tarpon Springs has lots of Greek restaurants, but only a couple of sponge boats actually still go out. That's a good thing since stocks are almost completely depleted. If you're thinking of buying natural sponge (as we told you here) make sure you get it from a sponge farm.

If only they knew way back at the turn of the century the harm they were doing to those sponge stocks. On her website, Kira Paulli Pravato explains that, "Although overflowing fresh water and local pollution were both blamed, the culprit appeared to be a fungus-like filament, which started in a small area of the sponge and expanded until the entire sponge was consumed."

These cruises in Tarpon Springs have been around for years and they are doing great things by showing tourists of all ages the amazing natural aspects of Tarpon Springs. Check them out if you're in the area. It's a great way to learn the history of the environment you're visiting.

More on the history of sponging here. Book an eco-boat trip with Sun Line Tourshere. Thanks to Penny, Chris and Mike. All photos Copyright Jenna Watson.

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