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Boaters reminded to watch for manatees over the Fourth of July Weekend

By Staff | Jun 17, 2009

Across the state, people are getting fired up for Fourth of July celebrations. To that end, Save The Manatee Club reminds the boating community to be extra cautious over the busy weekend.

“Watercraft-related mortality is an ongoing yet preventable cause of manatee injuries and deaths,” said Dr. Katie Tripp, Director of Science and Conservation for Save the Manatee Club. “There were 42 confirmed watercraft-related manatee deaths through June 5, 2009 and there have been a total of 240 mortalities so far this year. These numbers represent the highest total mortality and second highest watercraft mortality documented during this time frame over the last five years. In fact, historically, watercraft has been the leading known cause of manatee deaths. However, with the cooperation and vigilance of the boating community, we hope that manatees can be protected from further injury during the July 4th weekend and the remainder of the summer boating season. Boaters often travel in waterways shared with manatees so they play an important role in protecting this endangered marine mammal.”

Boaters should follow all posted boat speed regulations, slow down if manatees are in the area, and stay in deep water channels when possible.

Call the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on your cellular phone, or use VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio:

If you see a manatee with a pink or red wound or with deep cuts. These are signs of a recent watercraft strike.

If the manatee is tilting to one side, unable to submerge, or seems to have trouble breathing.

If you observe a manatee calf (less than 6 feet in length) by itself with no adults around for an extended period of time. Manatee calves may remain dependent on their mother for up to two years. If the mother dies before the calf is weaned, or if the two are separated, there is a strong likelihood that a dependent calf will not survive alone.

If you see anyone harassing/touching a manatee.

If you see boaters speeding in a protected area.

If you see a manatee entangled in monofilament line, crab trap lines, or other debris. Do not attempt to remove debris by yourself. Debris may be embedded underneath the skin and only a trained veterinarian can adequately assess and treat the wound.

If you see a dead manatee. By performing a necropsy, scientists can often determine the cause of death and better understand the threats faced by manatees.

If you see a manatee tagged with a radio or satellite transmitter. Sightings of tagged manatees help provide researchers with information that can be used to protect manatees and their habitat. Do not attempt to remove the transmitter. These devices are designed with a safety mechanism to prevent manatee entanglement if the tag becomes caught or obstructs a manatee’s movement in any way.

Florida boaters can request a free “Please Slow: Manatees Below” waterproof yellow banner by contacting Save The Manatee Club via e-mail at education@savethemanatee.org. Include full mailing information along with the area where you boat in Florida.

Jennifer Dorning of Fort Myers enjoys recreational boating, from Sanibel to Cayo Costa. She often uses the Club’s banner to quickly alert other boaters that manatees are present.

“The bright, easy-to-read banner is a great idea,” she said. “Before I had it, I was pointing to show other boaters where there were manatees, but often they couldn’t see what I was doing, and if they did see me, they had no idea why I was pointing.”

For additional information on “Manatee Protection Tips for Boaters,” go to Save The Manatee Club’s Web site at www.savethemanatee.org/boatertips.htm.

For details on the Adopt-A-Manatee program, and to sign up for the Club’s free e-newsletter, visit www.savethemanatee.org.

Source: Save The Manatee Club