Caring For Our Special Wildlife
The land and water in and surrounding our Port is the habitat of a variety of "imperiled" species (includes species designated as endangered, threatened and of concern) that have trouble surviving in tandem with a growing human population without special care.
Turtles and Tortoises
Please keep watch for them when you visit our Port and help us protect them by causing minimal disturbance to their lives. For special instructions to boaters, please visit our Endangered Species Watch page.
North Atlantic Right Whales are among the rarest mammals in the world, with fewer than 400 alive today. During the winter months (December March), the whales travel to coastal waters off Port Canaveral to bear their young and these waters have been designated a critical habitat by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Because this species frequently lies close to the surface and is vulnerable to collisions with ships, the primary focus of the Port's program is to educate shipping interests about the whales' presence and the steps that can be taken to avoid impact with them.
In 1995, the Marine Resources Council of East Central Florida established a network of local volunteers trained to watch for and report whale sightings off the Brevard County coast. Approaching vessels then are notified of right whales sighted in their area. The Canaveral Port Authority issued an initial $3,000 grant to set up the network and continues to support it annually.
The manatee is one of the best known imperiled species in the state of Florida. Manatees use the waters of Port Canaveral for playing, resting, feeding, mating and as a much-used travel corridor between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon. Due to their slow and docile nature, manatees are at significant risk of being injured or killed by boats.
In 1995, the Port implemented a manatee protection program which includes:
1) Installation of fenders at new piers and bulkheads, providing room for manatees to maneuver while vessels are being docked.
2) Grating of stormwater outfalls.
3) Consistent with permit requirements, posting of manatee observers during dredging and in-water construction.
4) Designation of all harbor waters as a "Slow Speed Zone."
5) In partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, installation of a state-of-the-art acoustic sensor system in the Canaveral Lock to prevent manatees being caught in the closing gates.
Turtles and Tortoises
Port Canaveral's Exterior Light Management Plan is designed to reduce the potential for disorientation in sea turtle hatchlings. To survive, these night-born babies must head for the sea. Instinct leads them toward areas of bright light, such as the moonlit surf or, unfortunately, man-made lighting. Our management plan addresses this problem by calling for limited pole heights, light shielding measures and use of low-pressure sodium lights or other responsive technology in sensitive areas.
The protected gopher tortoise is the only tortoise in North America that occurs east of Texas. A relatively large population of gopher tortoises lives in the dune fringe along the beach at Jetty Park. During the many expansion and renovation projects at Jetty Park, special care was taken to identify and avoid all gopher tortoise burrows. The tortoises themselves were relocated temporarily to minimize stress from the construction activities.
The area around Port Canaveral is also home to a number of threatened and endangered bird species, including: least terns, brown pelicans, woodstorks, black-necked stilts, black skimmers, ospreys, scrub jays and roseate spoonbills. The Canaveral Port Authority has provided additional shorebird habitat by creating and enhancing mangrove wetlands. We also post and close areas of the port in which imperiled birds are nesting.
Both Jetty Park and Rodney S. Ketcham Park are listed as stops on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Other bird species that can be seen at these locations include: ruddy turnstones, spotted sandpipers, doublebreasted cormorants, great blue herons, and snowy egrets.