The number of manatees killed by boat strikes is on the rise in Florida. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, 93 manatee deaths, including 10 in Volusia County, were caused by watercraft collisions from Jan. 1 through July 19.
The staff of Volusia County’s Manatee Protection Program urges boaters to be on the lookout for manatees as they travel in the St. Johns River and Halifax/Indian River. When struck by boats, these slow-moving marine mammals can incur deep wounds and internal damage.
Because manatees are often difficult to see, Debbie Wright, Volusia County’s manatee protection program manager, urges boaters to follow these guidelines:
- Obey posted speed limits.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to eliminate the sun’s glare and see below the water’s surface.
- Avoid boating over seagrass beds and shallow areas where manatees might be feeding. Be aware that manatees also use deep-water channels when traveling.
- Look for a snout, back, tail or flipper breaking the water’s surface.
- Watch for “manatee footprints,” swirls or flat spots on the water created by a manatee’s tail when it dives or swims.
- Remain at least 50 feet away from a manatee when operating a powerboat.
- If you plan to jet-ski, water-ski or participate in other high-speed watersports, choose areas that manatees cannot frequent, such as land-locked lakes or waters well offshore.
- If you see a manatee that is sick, injured, dead or orphaned, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922.