At least 76 manatees died in 2022 after being struck by boats, data shows. A study done by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) looked at 10 years of Florida manatee necropsy reports to characterize and quantify watercraft-related scarring. The researchers found that one out of every four adult carcasses analyzed in their study bore evidence of 10 or more watercraft strikes. With only 4% of adult manatees devoid of watercraft-related scars, it appears exceedingly rare for an adult manatee to not be struck multiple times in its life. This study shows that manatees are subjected to more sublethal watercraft strikes than any other studied marine mammal.
Given this information START felt it was important to share the following news release from FWC.
Go Slow and Look Below Manatees on the Move
“Spring is a particularly important season for boaters to go slow and lookout below for manatees as the slow-moving mammals naturally disperse from their winter refuges, traveling to other parts of the state and beyond.
Manatees depend on water generally warmer than 68 degrees Fahrenheit to survive the winter, so in the fall, they travel to Florida springs, power plant discharges and other warm-water sites. In the spring, as water temperatures rise, manatees gradually leave their winter habitats and are more likely to be found in rivers, canals and nearshore waters.
While manatees are large, they can be difficult to see in the water. That is why it is important to: go slow and follow all manatee protection zones; wear polarized glasses and look out below while boating or using personal watercraft — a visible snout or large circles on the water are indicators that manatees are below the surface; and always give manatees space.
Manatee protection zones are marked by waterway signs and maps of manatee protection zones are available online at MyFWC.com/Manatee by clicking on “Data and Maps.” From April 1 through Nov. 15, seasonal manatee zones require boaters to slow down in certain areas to prevent manatees from being injured or killed by motorboats or personal watercrafts. Boat strikes continue to be a major threat to Florida manatees. FWC law enforcement officers are on patrol in state waters to inform boaters of the seasonal manatee speed zones and take appropriate enforcement actions. Boaters are reminded to abide by the regulatory signs they see on the water.
Manatees are a protected species and it is illegal to feed, harass or harm them. Physically handling a distressed or stranded manatee can cause additional harm. Instead, report injured, distressed, sick or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) so trained responders can assist.”