Save the Manatee Club is a proud partner of National Safe Boating Week, which runs from May 21-27 and promotes recreational boating safety. The annual campaign, which kicks off the week before Memorial Day weekend, is an opportunity for Save the Manatee Club to remind boaters of manatee-safe boating tips.
While the primary focus around manatees over the past two years has rightfully been on the devastating Unusual Mortality Event for manatees in and around the Indian River Lagoon, it is important to remember that encounters with watercraft remain a major cause of manatee injuries and deaths.
Nearly every living manatee bears scars from encounters with propellers, and blunt force trauma from a high-speed collision with any part of a boat is likely to cause injuries leading to death.
Entanglement in or ingestion of improperly discarded fishing line can cause death or disfigurement.
Fortunately, staying manatee-safe on the water can be as simple as learning and following manatee safety tips, most of which apply not just to motorboat operators, but to those on jet skis or paddlecraft as well:
- Become familiar with and obey posted speed zone signs;
- Wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare and see below the water’s surface;
- Learn and look out for telltale signs of manatees in the area, notably a swirl or flat spot on the water that is created by the motion of the manatee’s tail when it dives or swims, or a break in the water created by a manatee’s snout, back, tail, or flipper;
- Keep away from posted manatee sanctuaries and always remain a safe distance away if you encounter a manatee. Never pursue or harass a manatee;
- Immediately report distressed, injured, tagged, or orphaned manatees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or by using VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio;
- Avoid boating over seagrass beds and shallow areas where manatees might be feeding. Stay in deep water channels when boating, but be aware that manatees also use deep water channels when traveling;
- Anglers: take care to reel in and properly dispose of or recycle your used fishing line.
“Due to the heartbreaking number of manatee deaths over the past two years, members of the public are increasingly concerned with doing all they can to come to the aid of our imperiled manatees,” said Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. “Everyone on the water can do their part to protect manatees right now by following the safety guidelines that prevent manatee injuries and deaths, and make our waterways safe, fun places for humans and manatees alike.”