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An Eye on the Animals

An event like the Bradenton Area River Regatta has hundreds of preparation details to handle, and that involves dozens of agencies and a task force that begins meeting six months ahead of time. One member of the task force is there expressly for the manatees and dolphins.

Meet Becky Sinnreich. 

She’s the Lead Observer for Marine Observer One, Inc. It’s her mission to protect anything that’s swimming under the water in the Manatee River during the Regatta. 

An avid animal lover, she began Marine Observer One after learning about marine biology while volunteering at Mote Marine. These days, she’s constantly in the company of the unofficial mascot of Marine Observer One – a therapy dog named Drago. Drago, a Great Pyrenees mix, is nearly as big as Becky. 

But don’t be fooled by Becky’s diminutive stature and cheerful disposition. She’s a bulldog when it comes to protecting marine life. On race day, Becky does her work from a low-flying helicopter. Her team also has volunteer observers from the Green Bridge and from a boat on the river.

Someone sees a manatee or a dolphin and she’ll stop a race if she has to. She’s done it before.

“It’s about the animals,” she says insistently. “If there are animals in the race area, we don’t try to move them. We delay the race start, and they get to move on their own.”

And if an animal shows up during the race? “Heaven forbid that happens, but if it does, we will stop the race until the animal leaves the area safely,” she says.

Becky is in constant radio contact with the Coast Guard all day during the boat races. Before any high-speed activity starts, the Coast Guard waits for an all-clear from Marine Observer One. They will delay if they have to. 

“The higher you are, the easier it is to see under water,” Becky says. “So really, polarized sunglasses and a good hat are the only requirements for this.”

Well, and a helicopter. 

“We want people to have a good time, be safe and enjoy the water, the Riverwalk park. What’s so nice about racing here is that it’s so beautiful. And what makes it beautiful is the animals. We have them to thank for keeping it beautiful, so it’s a team effort to keep them safe.”

Thank you, Marine Observer One.

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