The Memorial Day weekend typically means crowded conditions on Florida waterways, and Save the Manatee Club cautions the boating community to keep a look out for manatees.
“Collisions with watercraft are the leading cause of all manatee deaths in Florida, when a cause of death can be determined,” says Patrick Rose, aquatic biologist and Executive Director of the Club.
Even under the best conditions, manatees are often difficult to spot in the water, and Rose recommends wearing polarized sunglasses to eliminate the glare of the sun, which helps boaters see below the water’s surface. Learn to recognize a manatee’s presence. Look for a swirl on the water’s surface and a manatee’s tail or nose. Follow all posted boat speed regulations, slow down if manatees are in the vicinity, and stay in deep water channels if possible.
Save the Manatee Club produces and distributes a variety of free public awareness materials to protect endangered manatees. Yellow waterproof banners with the message, “Please Slow, Manatees Below,” are available to Florida boaters. The bright banners alert other boaters about the presence of manatees and can help save manatee lives.
Other free materials include dock signs for Florida shoreline property owners, waterproof manatee protection tips cards and boating decals featuring the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s hotline number for reporting dead, orphaned, sick, or injured manatees, or a manatee who is being harassed. Call 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on cellular phones, or VHF Channel 16 on marine radios, or send a text message to Tip@MyFWC.com.
More “Manatee Protection Tips for Boaters” can be found on the Club’s website at savethemanatee.org/boatertips. Also download the free Manatee Alert App for iPhones and iPads at http://bit.ly/15EYen6, which notifies boaters when they are approaching manatee speed zones and helps facilitate the reporting of injured manatees and manatee harassment. Also check out the Club’s new animated boating video, “Share the Waterway,” at https://youtu.be/rmDSpaRPrBg for more tips.
“Save the Manatee Club appreciates the efforts of boaters to keep manatees safe, and those efforts are even more important now as Florida’s boating population continues to grow, “ says Rose. “As long as threats continue to increase, and mortality from human causes remains high, then manatees will require strong protection in Florida.”
To other nationally-recognized days are also coming up – National Safe Boating Week, May 16-22, promotes safe and responsible boating, and Endangered Species Day, May 15, which recognizes the efforts to conserve and protect America’s most imperiled species.
The free public awareness materials mentioned can be obtained by contacting Save the Manatee Club via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by regular mail at 500 N. Maitland Ave., Maitland, FL 32751, or by calling toll free at 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).
For more information on manatees, the Adopt-A-Manatee® program, or to sign up for the Club’s free e-newsletter, visit the Club’s website at savethemanatee.org.