Although Save the Manatee Club works in almost all areas of manatee protection, we focus on the prevention of manatee injuries and deaths from human activity. This includes manatee deaths from boat collisions, which have been record-setting in recent years. Even though no boater would want to intentionally harm a manatee, collisions with boats continue to be the single greatest threat to manatees. Every day, many manatees come within an inch of losing their lives from a collision with a boat’s hull and/or propeller, and still more manatees sustain non-lethal injuries from boat hits.
As we all become more informed about the threats to the manatee’s long-term survival, we can become better stewards. It is the boating community, especially, that plays a pivotal role in safeguarding manatees and conserving and enhancing their aquatic habitat, which is why we produce and distribute numerous free boater resources. At savethemanatee.org/boatertips, you can find information on boating safety classes, speed zone maps, and boating and angling guides. You can also get manatee protection tips, and request our free boater banners, dock signs, decals, waterway tips cards, posters, and brochures. We have also produced some excellent videos to better inform boaters. They illustrate just how dangerous our waterways are for manatees – and humans, too.
Over the years, we have successfully advocated for critically-important boat speed zones and manatee sanctuaries, and although hundreds of thousands of acres of Florida’s waterways are now protected, the majority of the manatee’s habitat remains unregulated. And habitat that is regulated suffers from a lack of enforcement for those boaters who will not voluntarily slow their speed in important manatee waters. Currently, with over one million boats on Florida’s waterways, we must rely heavily on boaters to voluntarily comply with speed zone laws in the absence of a greater enforcement presence for those careless boaters who endanger both manatees and their fellow boaters.
So I call on all boaters to become advocates for manatee and aquatic habitat conservation, including the protection of both the quality and the quantity of our waters, because we all need clean, abundant water to survive! Before going out on Florida’s waterways, know your route and where manatees are likely to be found, then stay alert and keep a lookout for them. Obey posted speed zones, and call 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) to report an injured or orphaned manatee.
It will take all of us working together to make the waters safer.
For additional free resources, visit savethemanatee.org/freemateria
Patrick M. Rose
Aquatic Biologist, Executive Director
Save the Manatee Club