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Boaters urged to watch for manatees

Posted On: July 2, 2019

Boaters are asked to be on the lookout for manatees as they travel in the St. Johns River and Halifax/Indian River.

These slow-moving marine mammals are frequently struck by boats, which can lead to deep wounds, internal damage and even death. Last year, 119 manatees died from boat strikes in Florida.

Because manatees are often difficult to see, Debbie Wingfield, 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 hit a manatee or see an injured manatee, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-FWCC (3922).