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Manatee deaths in Florida on track to reach 4-year high

FWC : Boaters can help protect manatees by slowing down in shallow water

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – So far this year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports 318 manatees have died, including two in Clay County, six in Duval County, and six in St. Johns County.

As the temperatures rise, so does the number of boaters on the waterways and it's important to pay attention and slow down whenever in shallow water just in case manatees are just below the surface.

The gentle giants have no natural predators but hundreds of them die in Florida waters every year.

According to the FWC, the numbers have been climbing over the past several years, from 371 deaths in 2014 to 538 in 2017. 

Last year, more than 100 manatees were killed by people in boats.

That's a number that can be reduced by taking a few simple precautions.

Nicole Bartlett with Sea to Shore Alliance tells me boaters can spot manatees best by wearing polarized sunglasses.

"Manatees will get hit by boats clearly because they are going through shallow water and they have nowhere to go to get away from the boats, so if you are traveling through shallow water, travel slower and then you will have less chance of hitting one and it will give them a warning in time to get out of the way," said Bartlett.

If you are out on the water and see a manatee that might be injured, please alert help by calling the FWC hotline number below.

FWC's Wildlife Alert Toll-Free Number 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922)
Cell phone customers: *FWC or #FWC

About the Authors:

Florida-born multi-media journalist pays special attention to issues in St. Johns County.