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Boaters urged to keep an eye out for manatees over holiday weekend

By Staff | Jun 28, 2016

As boaters prepare for the long holiday weekend, one group asks that they keep manatees in mind.

The Save the Manatee Club is urging locals and visitors to be extra vigilant on the waterways to help keep the state’s official marine mammal safe. Dr. Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation with the club, explained that boat traffic jumps on holidays, resulting in an increase in danger to manatees.

“For people, it’s a great time to get out on the water,” she said.

However, manatee watercraft-related deaths this year are outpacing the previous record year, which was in 2009. As of Friday, there had been 62 deaths statewide, compared to the 97 total for 2009.

“We are not having a good year as far as manatee watercraft-related deaths,” Tripp said.

In Lee County, there have been nine deaths this year attributed to watercrafts.

“We’re really try to get the message out loud and clear,” she said. “If things keep up at the rate they have been, we’ll break the previous record that we have.”

By staying vigilant, the boating public can help reduce the unnecessary deaths.

“It is still a federally endangered species. It is a protected marine mammal,” Tripp said.

“By keeping the (manatee) mortality numbers down, it’s one way to help prevent getting more regulations put on the water,” she added.

Officials suggested that boaters learn about a new area before getting in the water. Resources can be found in print and online that indicate the boating speed zones, where shallow waters are and more.

“So that you’re prepared for the area that you’re boating in,” Tripp said.

Polarized sunglasses are also recommended.

“Those really help you see them in the water better,” she said.

Boaters can also watch for signs of manatees by looking out for their noses, backs and such.

“Be vigilant and keep an eye on what’s going on in the waterway,” Tripp said.

The Save the Manatee Club also offers various tools on its website, as well. There are waterproof decals that have on it the phone number for reporting injured manatees, double-sided laminate cards with pictures on how to detect manatees – in four languages – and a link to a manatee alert app.

“It lets them know when they’re entering a manatee speed zone,” she said.

There are also vinyl boat banners, which can be used by canoers, kayakers and more.

“It’s a way that boaters can communicate with other boaters, letting them know there are manatees in the area,” Tripp said.

Additional tips and information can be found on the club’s website.

“While some people think about safe boating, they don’t always think about it from the manatee’s viewpoint,” she said.

“You don’t want to turn your fun day on the water into a bad day for someone or something else,” Tripp added.

For more information, call 800-432-JOIN (5646) or visit: www.savethemanatee.org.