In Danger On The Water

See our new video that focuses on the dangers manatee face from watercraft collisions. It features manatees that have survived boat strikes and gives tips on what can be done to do help protect them.

Boating can be fun and exciting for Florida residents and visitors, but that fun can come at a dangerous price to boaters and manatees alike who must share Florida’s often crowded waterways. Most boaters certainly don’t intentionally want to harm manatees, yet the vast majority of all manatees have been hit by boats, and many have been struck numerous times. Save the Manatee Club has produced a new video that focuses on the dangers manatees face from watercraft and to illustrate how incredibly amazing, but sad, it is that manatees survive grave injuries and are still able to live. The Club urges boaters to slow down and watch out for them while in areas frequented by manatees and help to educate other boaters to do the same.

The video features manatees that have survived boat strikes and conveys from the manatees’ perspective what they must go through to survive these dangerous and frequent encounters during their daily lives as docile defenseless marine mammals. It includes a heartwarming account of manatees that have been nursed back to health and returned to the wild even after suffering severe injuries. Click here to see the video.

Although manatees are often well protected within their critical warm water winter sanctuaries, these sanctuaries are a relatively small percentage of their overall habitat, and manatees must leave them repeatedly to forage. During the 2016-2017 winter season at Blue Spring State Park, SMC Manatee Specialist Wayne Hartley observed 59 individual manatees with 66 new boat strike injuries. During the rest of the year, manatees must face even more dangerous encounters with boats every day.

After much hard work, site-specific boat speed zones for manatee protection have been implemented in portions of 13 “key” manatee counties in order to help reduce manatee injury and deaths. But sadly, despite the fact that so many manatees are injured and killed by watercraft collisions each year, a few callous boating special interest groups are working to take away important portions of those existing slow speed zones. A group called Save Crystal River had petitioned to have all State of Florida manatee protection zones removed from Kings Bay in Crystal River, Florida, and would like to see reduced protections under Florida’s Manatee Sanctuary Act. In Brevard County, Citizens for Florida Waterways (CFW), another boating special interest group, has also proposed legislation to weaken the Manatee Sanctuary Act and the removal of rules, such as slow-speed zones, that protect manatees. To make matters worse, CFW has also worked to support making it legal to kill manatees. Sadly, more manatees were killed by watercraft strikes during 2016 than ever before. Doing less to protect them is not an option – we must do more.

Tom Shirley shows the free public awareness waterway sign he received from Save the Manatee Club. Florida shoreline property owners can also request a sign by calling 1-800-432-JOIN (5646) or by sending an email to education@savethemanatee.org.

With the help of many concerned manatee supporters, including caring boaters, Save the Manatee Club has stopped these selfish actions in the past, but we remain vigilant if we are going to help protect manatees from these unacceptable dangers they must face every day.

Educated and watchful boaters are key to protecting manatees. If you are a boater, please wear polarized sunglasses while operating a boat, and slow down and observe all manatee speed zones and caution areas. Watch for the manatee’s snout or back when the animal surfaces to breathe or dives. A swirl or flat spot is created when the manatee swims. Call 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone, VHF Channel 16 on a marine radio, or send a text message to Tip@MyFWC.com to report a dead, orphaned, sick, or injured manatee, or a manatee being harassed.

A free Manatee Alert App for iPhones and iPads is available at iTunes and notifies boaters when they are approaching manatee speed zones and helps facilitate the reporting of injured manatees and manatee harassment. Save the Manatee Club also produces and distributes a variety of free public awareness materials to protect manatees. Yellow waterproof banners with the message, “Please Slow, Manatees Below,” are available to Florida boaters and help alert other boaters to the presence of manatees. A waterproof manatee protection tips card and boat decal with a number for reporting injured manatees are also available. In addition, Florida shoreline property owners can get a free public awareness waterway sign to post. Contact Save the Manatee Club via email at education@savethemanatee.org or by calling toll free at 1-800-432-JOIN (5646). More manatee protection tips for boaters can be found at savethemanatee.org/boatertips.

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