Safe at Sea: Keep manatees ‘Safe at Sea’ too
The recent cold snap was a reminder that in addition to making for some lousy fishing, the lower temperatures affect the Southwest Florida manatee population, as well.
For some fun, take The Manatee Quiz: (answers below)
– True or false: Manatees are mammals.
– Are manatees omnivores, carnivores or herbivores?
– How old do you think a manatee can live to be?
– How much can manatees weigh?
– How long in length can manatees grow?
– How long do you think a manatee can submerge itself?
– Which mammal are manatees most closely related?
Because manatees can live in all types of water — salt, brackish and fresh — boaters may find manatees in just about all locations; however, when the water temperature lowers, they seek warmer water because they are stressed dramatically by temperatures that run lower than 68 degrees. As a result, during this last cold snap — even as short as it was — the manatees headed for the island canals and shallow inlets to keep warm.
For boaters, this can be problematic as the No. 1 human-related cause of manatee injury is boat collisions. Because these very large creatures are slow-moving at 3-5 mph and because they are always either grazing or sleeping, boaters need to be attentive in shallower waters.
HOW BOATERS CAN HELP
– Post someone on the bow of the boat as a lookout for manatees as you are underway. If you spot manatees — they’re frequently in pods — give them wide berth.
– The “spotters” should look for a circular wave pattern left on the water’s surface as it submerges itself. These circles are often called “manatee footprints.”
– Avoid passing directly over manatees.
– Wear polarized sunglasses, which help to reduce the water’s glare.
– Do not provide water or food to manatees to prevent them from seeking human attention — which they love.
– Most importantly, pay close attention to speed zone postings. Remember: a “No Wake Zone” means slowest speed to maintain steerage (2-3 mph) and “Idle Speed” means boat should be settled in the water (5-7 mph).
Now, the answers to the Manatee Quiz:
– Up to 65 years, though roughly half die by age 20.
– Nearly 1,200 pounds.
– Just under 10 feet.
– 20 minutes.
Pat Schmidt is a member of America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva. For more about the chapter and its boating education courses, visit www.sancapboating.club or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-987-2125.