Law enforcement steps up river patrols

Patrols keep watch over manatee zones

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Boaters beware. Law enforcement agencies are increasing patrols along the St. Johns River and if you're not following the law, you could get a hefty fine or even jail time.

News4Jax rode along with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as they patrolled the river downtown, keeping an eye on manatee zone, in particular.

It didn't take long for JSO to pull one group over for speeding in a no wake zone. They passed the boat safety inspection, but were given a citation for violation of the manatee zones. That’s a $93 ticket.

There's nothing wrong with having fun on the water, but police want you to follow the laws when it comes to boating.

That means paying attention to black and orange signs indicating a manatee zone. Some will even post a speed limit. Although the federal government just changed the status of manatees from endangered to threatened, they are still protected.

To help better spot manatees in the water - it's recommended you wear polarized sunglasses. It cuts down on the glare in the water.

Also keep an eye out for circular swirls in the water or the snout of a manatee just above the surface. So far this year one manatee has been struck by a boat and killed in Jacksonville.

"They tend to be found sometimes in mariners chewing on ropes, almost like they're flossing their teeth,” said Jerry Pinto of the Marine Science Institute at Jacksonville University. “They like to play with buoys. They are playful and inquisitive by nature."

Marine officials say manatees are known swim up to boats - but advise against feeding or interacting with them to protect their quality of life.

If you see a dead, injured, or tagged manatee, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation at 904-256-7575.

For tips on boating safety, check the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office website and the Coast Guard website.