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Safe at Sea: Keep manatees ‘Safe at Sea’ too

By PAT SCHMIDT - | Nov 10, 2020

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:

– True.

– Herbivores.

– Up to 65 years, though roughly half die by age 20.

– Nearly 1,200 pounds.

– Just under 10 feet.

– 20 minutes.

– Elephants.

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 education@sanibelcaptivasps.org or 612-987-2125.