Seasonal manatee boating speed zones go into effect April 1.
Intended to protect the state’s official marine mammal, which is a threatened species, the zones require boaters and personal watercraft users to slow down to keep from striking manatees.
To ensure manatee safety, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and other law enforcement officers will be increasing patrols in the zones.
Warming weather increases manatee migration from their winter refuges into open water, including the Manatee River, Sarasota Bay, the Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico near Anna Maria Island.
In addition to obeying signs that define permitted boat speeds in manatee zones, boaters and operators of personal watercraft can help manatees survive by following these tips:
- Wear polarized sunglasses to help spot manatees in the water.
- Watch for large, telltale circles on the water’s surface (manatee footprints) indicating the presence of manatees.
- Look for a snout just above the surface.
- Slow down when the presence of manatees is indicated.
- If you observe a manatee mating herd – several manatees gathered as males vie to mate with a female – stay 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.
Boaters and others who find sick or injured manatees should report the animal and its location to the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or dial #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone.
Manatee zones and maps are available at MyFWC.com/Manatee, where you can select “Protection Zones” for links to county maps.
Boaters can get more tips from “A boater’s guide to living with Florida Manatees.”
To support the FWC’s manatee research, rescue and management efforts, purchase a “Save the Manatee” Florida license plate at BuyaPlate.com, or donate $5 to receive an FWC manatee decal by going to MyFWC.com/Manatee and clicking on “Decals.”