Great Harbour Cay manatees

A manatee was observed near the Great Harbour Cay marina, on 31 December 1999. Locals welcomed the new-comer, some even believed that the manatee's arrival was a good omen for the start of the new millenium!

Manatee biologist Jim Reid from the US Geological Survey travelled to Great Harbour Cay in late February 2000 and found a small adult female (already nicknamed Gina) that appeared to be in good health and behaving normally.

Gina in Great Harbour Cay in 2000. Photo by Jim Reid, courtesy of US Geological Survey

Using photographs of Gina’s distinctive scar patterns, Reid was able to determine that she was the same manatee seen routinely during much of 1999 at the Atlantic Undersea Testing and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) in Andros, about 90 miles south. She was last sighted at AUTEC on 17 December 1999. 

Photo-identification analysis using the USGS/Sirenia Project’s Manatee Individual Photo-identification System also revealed that Gina had over wintered at the Crystal and Homosassa rivers along the west coast of Florida. She was photographed as a calf with her mother in the winter of 1993, and again as an independent juvenile in the winter of 1994. 

This was the first evidence of where some of the manatees in the Bahamas may come from. Reid determined that Bullocks Harbour and the near-shore waters of GHC provide appropriate habitats for manatee use. Given a reliable source of freshwater at the marina, Reid believed that Gina could thrive at this location.

Jim Reid travelled again to GHC from 22-30 May 2000 to assess to Gina’s condition and attach a radio tag to her. A VHF transmitter/datalogging GPS receiver was fitted to Gina for one week to determine local movement patterns. Feeding, resting, and travel areas were documented through field observations. 

In May 2000, Gina was frequently seen in the company of another manatee, a shy small adult male.  A trip was conducted in October 2000 and a GPS tag was again attached. Recommendations to limit human contact, establish sanctuary areas and limit boat speeds in the harbour were made at that time.

Gina and newborn calf

During the summer of 2001, Gina appeared distended and assumed to be pregnant.  She gave birth and was seen in the Great Harbour Marina basin with a small calf on 3 September 2001.  This was Gina's first calf, and the first manatee birth documented for The Bahamas.  Since then, Gina is believed to have had several calves, with a birth also reported for one of her calves.

Today, there are four individuals that regularly use Bullock's Harbour in Great Harbour Cay. 

Gina and her calf, JJ

Adult male