November is Manatee Awareness Month, a time to appreciate our large, lumbering state marine mammals and learn how to co-exist with them when we’re boating in their habitat.
In Manatee County, our awareness of manatees is frequently top of mind, and especially so since July, when our beloved Snooty drowned after his 69th birthday party when he swam through a broken access panel and became trapped in an underwater tunnel at the Parker Manatee Aquarium.
Just as tragic, four of the 17 wild manatees that died in Manatee County so far this year were killed by boats, no improvement from the same number in 2016, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Statewide, 450 manatees have died so far this year, 83 of them killed by boats. That’s about 7 percent of the 6,620 manatees spotted in the most recent aerial survey over Florida this year.
We can’t fix red tide. We can’t fix cold water. We can’t fix lots of things that kill manatees. But we can fix this. Here’s how:
- Obey posted signs for manatee slow-speed zones.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to see manatees in your path.
- If you observe a manatee mating herd – several manatees gathered as males vie to mate with a female – watch from at least 100 feet away. Coming any closer might disrupt the mating or endanger you; adult manatees typically weigh more than 1,000 pounds.
- Never feed or water manatees as they will become habituated to people, which could put them at risk of injury.
- Stow trash and line when underway. Marine debris that blows overboard can become ingested by or entangled around manatees.
- Report stranded or dead manatees, or boaters speeding in a manatee zone, to the FWC at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).