How you can help protect manatees while out on the water

FWC is asking Florida residents, visitors to help keep manatees safe

FILE - A manatee swims in a canal, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Coral Gables, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) (Rebecca Blackwell, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking Florida residents and visitors to help keep manatees safe, especially while out on the water.

As water temperatures warm, manatees are leaving their winter refuges and are traveling to other areas like rivers, canals and nearshore waters.

So state wildlife officials are urging boaters to stay alert and avoid manatees while traveling through Florida’s waterways.

From April 1 through Nov. 15, seasonal manatee zones require boaters to slow down in certain areas to prevent manatees from being injured or killed by motorboats or personal watercraft.

Boat strikes are a major threat to Florida manatees. FWC law enforcement officers are on patrol in state waters to remind boaters of the seasonal manatee speed zones and take enforcement actions.

Manatees can be difficult to detect when they are underwater, so it is important for boaters to be on the lookout.

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Here are some guidelines from the FWC to help protect manatees:

  • Wear polarized sunglasses to help spot manatees.
  • Avoid boating in shallow areas where manatees graze on seagrass.
  • Look for large circles on the water, also known as manatee footprints, indicating the presence of a manatee below.
  • Look for a snout sticking up out of the water.
  • Follow posted manatee zones while boating.
  • Never push a stranded manatee back into the water.
  • Report injured, distressed, sick or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or by dialing #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone so trained responders can assist.

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