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Boaters asked to watch for migrating manatees

91 manatee fatalities caused by boat strikes so far in 2016

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Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission want Floridians to be on the lookout for migrating manatees.

Manatee numbers are up and the bulky aquatic mammals are on the move this month. The annual migration of Florida manatees begins in November, as the weather cools and Manatee Awareness Month is celebrated.
The FWC asks that people in boats and personal watercraft slow down and watch out for manatees swimming in Florida’s rivers, bays or coastal waters. Keep in mind this time of year manatees are searching for warmer waters to help them survive winter’s cold.

Many seasonal manatee protection zones also go into effect as of Nov. 15.

Adult manatees can weigh about 1,000 pounds, but can be difficult to see, especially when just below the water’s surface. Manatees are easier to spot if boaters wear polarized sunglasses and keep a lookout for signs of manatees such as the circular “footprints” they trace on the top of the water.

The FWC said manatee numbers are up.

In February 2016, the FWC announced 6,250 manatees were counted in an aerial survey of Florida waters. While that is good news, there have been 91 manatee fatalities caused by boat strikes so far in 2016.

“Boaters who slow down and keep a lookout for Florida manatees are an important reason the overall population of this species is doing better,” leader of the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management section Carol Knox said. “Remember, it is especially important to watch out for manatees during Manatee Awareness Month in November, as they begin their annual migration to warmer waters.”

The FWC spends about $2 million a year on manatee conservation, including research, rescue, management and public education efforts, and works in partnership with agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on manatee issues.

FWC law enforcement officers will be on the water enforcing the seasonal rules to protect manatees in busy boating areas.

Floridians contribute to manatee conservation when they purchase the “Save the Manatee” license plate at BuyaPlate.com or donate $5 for the manatee decal.

For information about manatee protection zones by county, including the seasonal changes, go to MyFWC.com/Manatee and click on “Data and Maps.” At the bottom of the page, there is also information on FWC Manatee COLD-weather changes to speed zones.

To report sightings of injured, sick or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline call 1-888-404-3922, #FWC and *FWC on a cell phone, or with a text to Tip@MyFWC.com.

Want to see a manatee? Click here to find a location.