The summer season has arrived and that can mean crowded conditions on Florida’s waterways. Save the Manatee Club encourages the boating community to watch for manatees when out on the water.
“Last year was a record year for manatees killed by watercraft in Florida, and many more manatees suffered injuries from boat strikes,” said Patrick Rose, Save the Manatee Club Executive Director. “Watercraft-related manatee mortality is the leading identified cause of manatee death in Florida.”
Manatees usually swim about 3 – 5 miles per hour. Because they are slow-moving, need to surface to breathe air, and prefer shallow water, they are vulnerable to boat strikes. Manatees can suffer injury and death due to the crushing impact of the hull and/or the slashing of the propellers.
For the manatee’s protection, boaters are urged to:
- Follow all posted boat speed regulations and do not enter designated manatee sanctuaries.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to help see below the water’s surface.
- Look for a snout, back, tail, or flipper breaking the surface of the water or a swirl or flat spot created when the manatee dives or swims.
- Slow down if manatees are in the vicinity
- Stay in deepwater channels when boating. Avoid boating over seagrass beds and shallow areas where manatees might be feeding.
- Observe manatees from a distance and remember to “look, but don’t touch.” Resist the urge to feed manatees or give them water.
- Stash any trash and discard monofilament line, hooks, and other trash properly.
- Call 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone, VHF Channel 16 on a marine radio, or send a text message to Tip@MyFWC.com to report a dead, orphaned, sick, or injured manatee, or a manatee being harassed.
Save the Manatee Club produces and distributes a variety of free public awareness materials to protect manatees. Yellow waterproof banners with the message, “Please Slow, Manatees Below,” are available to Florida boaters. The bright banners alert other boaters about the presence of manatees and can help save manatee lives. Other free materials include dock signs for Florida shoreline property owners, waterproof manatee protection tips cards, and boat decals with a number for reporting injured manatees.
More “Manatee Protection Tips for Boaters” and a free Manatee Alert App for iPhones and iPads can be found on the Club’s website at savethemanatee.org/boatertips. The Alert App notifies boaters when they are approaching manatee speed zones and helps facilitate the reporting of injured manatees and manatee harassment. Also, check out the Club’s new “Safe Boating Tips to Protect Manatees” YouTube video at smc.convio.net/safeboating.