With boating season comes the need for an increased awareness surrounding large sea creatures, such as manatees and sea turtles. Boat collisions are the leading cause of sea turtle and manatee strandings, injuries, and death. Both of these animals are endangered and must be protected at all costs. However, it’s not always easy to see animals lurking beneath the ocean’s surface. So, what can you do?
Drive cautiously, be ready to slow down or avoid animals in your pathway, and if you do happen to hit a sea turtle or a manatee, call 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) (the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission). You won’t be penalized if the collision was an accident, and you may even save the animal’s life.
If you think sea turtles only inhabit the ocean, you’re incorrect. They also occur in sounds, estuaries, and tidal creeks. As for manatees, they migrate from Florida to Georgia each spring and gravitate towards marsh grass and aquatic vegetation. They’re extremely large and slow-moving and hover just below the surface, which can make them difficult to spot.
Follow the rules in low-speed and no-wake zones, as that’s where manatees will typically hang out. They love to munch on algae growing on docks and boats and float along the edge of marshes. Stick to deeper channels, if possible, to reduce the risk of collision.
If you see any dead manatees or sea turtles, report them. If the turtle is tagged, include that information when you call.
Here are a few other ways to help protect manatees:
- Look for them before you start your boat’s engine.
- Proceed with caution when boating through shallow water. Keep in mind that manatees can’t dive below the surface to avoid your oncoming vessel in these areas.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare and enable you to spot manatees more easily.
- Watch the water’s surface for large swirls of water that might be caused by manatees swimming underwater, away from your boat.