Attention Boaters: Watch Out for Florida Manatees!
November is Manatee Awareness Month as Florida manatees begin to migrate to our waters to leave the cooler, winter waters. This week, many manatee protection zones went into effect as they travel south.
Manatee numbers are currently flourishing, but this means it’s even more important to look out for them. It’s been reported that there have been 91 manatee fatalities caused from boats this year.
In order to survive the winter weather, Florida manatees migrate to our rivers, bays and coastal waters. This is why it is especially important for boaters to keep a watchful eye out for these aquatic mammals when out on the waters this month.
Though large in size, adult manatees can actually be difficult to spot. To spot them easier, you can wear polarized sunglasses and look out for traces of their presence, such as “footprints” they leave on the water’s surface.
When in manatee protection zones, follow the speed rules in these areas that are known to have more manatees. Boaters can also drive slower, in general, and try to stay in deeper waters to avoid these friendly creatures. Areas such as sea grass beds and other shallow areas will want to be avoided as manatees are known to dwell here as well as lagoons and estuaries.
It’s also important to be mindful to not leave any lines, hooks or any other debris behind in the waters. These could entangle or be ingested by manatees and other wildlife should they encounter these hazardous items.
You can view the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) seasonal rules for manatee migration season as well as the areas designated as manatee protection zones at MyFWC.com/Manatee.