Slow your boats: Manatees are coming

Law enforcement watching for speeding

By Mark Collins - Meteorologist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Law enforcement agencies are amplifying their crackdown on boats speeding in manatee zones over the next few months.

As the water warms, the manatees return to our beaches and rivers after wintering down south. 

Speeding boats are a big threat to sea cows' safety. About 120,000 vessels travel through Duval County each year.

In 2017, boat strikes killed five manatees in Duval County. That is more than in any other county in north Florida.

Record cold during the first two months this year has taken a significant toll, killing 64 Florida manatees. 

So far, none died from boat strikes this year in northeast Florida. Scientists and law enforcement officers want to keep it that way. 

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Marine Unit and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers are stepping up enforcement around manatee protection zones. Fines start at $150 and reach into the thousands if you are busted buzzing through manatee habitats.

Never approach manatees and obey slow zones. Always be on the lookout. 

You can wear polarized sunglasses to help you spot manatees, which typically rest at the surface. They often float motionless in a behavior called logging. 

Slowing down gives you time to notice manatee footprints on the water. They look like circles and mark the presence of manatees just below the surface. Be sure to stay clear of these markings.

Some manatees at or just below the surface can be identified by satellite tracking tags floating above the manatee. These look like like small, slender crab buoys.

The tethered devices relay important information to scientists. Many are affixed to rehabilitated orphans, according to FWC Biologist Nadia Gordon. She said biologists at Sea to Shore are using the tracking devices to learn about migration patterns.

If you see a tagged manatee, call the FWC hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC.

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