Helping to Keep Manatees Safe

FWCThe Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding boaters to be extra cautious and obey manatee speed zone signs as they head out on the state's waterways during the Labor Day weekend.

During warm weather, manatees move throughout Florida's estuaries and rivers. Boaters can help keep manatees safe by following a few simple guidelines.

"We ask boaters to stay in marked channels, wear polarized sunglasses to improve visibility below the water surface and obey posted boat-speed zones," said Kipp Frohlich, leader of the FWC's Imperiled Species Management section. "Using poles, paddles or trolling motors when in close proximity to manatees and having someone onboard scan the water when under way can go a long way to protecting manatees from harm."

Boaters should scan the water near or in front of the boat - looking for a repetitive line of half-moon swirls - sometimes called a manatee footprint - or a trail or a snout or fluke (tail) breaking the water's surface.

"Manatee protection is a high priority for the FWC," said Carol Knox, manatee management plan coordinator. "We are committed to conservation actions that reduce the number of human-caused manatee deaths."

Enforcement of manatee protection zones and efforts to inform boaters about manatee conservation also is a priority for the FWC's law enforcement officers.

Besides slowing down, obeying speed zones and following the FWC's recommendations, residents can purchase a manatee specialty license plate. The funds collected for these plates go directly into manatee research and conservation.

As of Aug. 20, 58 manatees have died in 2010 from watercraft strikes.

If you see a manatee in distress or a dead manatee, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). For more information about manatees, go to

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