Note: High resolution jpeg (300 dpi) images of the Club’s yellow boating banner or public awareness sign for shoreline property owners are available upon request.
Planning a memorable Memorial Day getaway in Florida? Don’t forget to mind the manatees! Water sports enthusiasts, boaters, anglers, divers, and beach-goers might encounter these slow-moving, gentle creatures in and around Florida waterways. Human-related manatee injuries and deaths are an ongoing concern year-round for the manatee population in the Sunshine State, with increased risk on busy boating holidays.
“Collisions with watercraft are the leading cause of all human-related manatee deaths in Florida, when a cause of death can be determined,” says Patrick Rose, aquatic biologist and Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club.
Last year (2018) was by far the worst year on record for manatee-related watercraft mortality, and 2019 is on pace to exceed that grim number. Save the Manatee Club wants to ensure that imperiled manatees are receiving the help they so desperately require.
“Not only should we be concerned with the mortality rate of manatees but also with the trauma left from collisions with watercraft,” says Rose.
Most every living manatee bears scars from near-deadly encounters with watercraft. These encounters can and will happen again in a manatee’s life. It’s a game of odds that all too often eventually proves fatal for these gentle aquatic mammals.
“It is the boating community, especially, that plays a pivotal role in safeguarding manatees and conserving and enhancing their aquatic habitat, which is why we produce and distribute numerous free boater resources,” says Rose.
Save the Manatee Club offers free materials to boaters and kayakers to help safeguard manatees, including the “Please Slow: Manatees Below” waterproof bright-yellow banner to alert others when manatees are present in the area. The Club also offers a sturdy aluminum manatee public awareness sign free to Florida shoreline property owners.
Boaters should follow all posted boat speed regulations, slow down if manatees are in the vicinity, and stay in deep water channels when possible. Watch for a snout, back, tail, or flipper breaking the surface of the water, and wear polarized sunglasses to eliminate glare and help see below the water’s surface. Take a page from the manatee playbook – take it slow, enjoy the wonderful Florida scenery, and stay safe this Memorial Day weekend and beyond.
If you see an injured, dead, tagged, or orphaned manatee, or a manatee who is being harassed, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or use VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio. Recreational boaters are advised to review and carry up-to-date navigation charts onboard their vessels to help avoid shallow areas where manatees feed and rest. Boating guides that feature manatee speed zones for each regulated county are available from FWC and should also be reviewed prior to boating and kept onboard for continued reference.
Additional “Manatee Protection Tips for Boaters” and the video “Boat Safely with Manatees” can be found on the Club’s website.
Coming up – National Safe Boating Week, May 18-24, which promotes safe and responsible boating, and Endangered Species Day, May 17th, which recognizes the efforts to conserve and protect America’s most imperiled species.
The free decals, signs, and banners mentioned above can be obtained by contacting Save the Manatee Club via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by regular mail at 500 N. Maitland Ave., Maitland, FL 32751, or by calling toll free at 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).
This article was originally published by Save the Manatee Club.