November is Manatee Awareness Month

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This year has been a tough one for Florida manatees. Of the estimated 6,000 manatees that dwell in Florida waters, already 714 manatee deaths have been recorded this year compared to 538 in 2017 — quite a huge dent in the manatee population. The red tide has continued to ravage the Gulf and the inland waters of Southwest Florida since October, causing 67 out of the 714 manatee deaths. It’s also suspected that 121 other manatees — nine among them found in Manatee County — were killed by the red tide.

How does the red tide affect manatees?

The red tide has a neurotoxin that, when ingested, causes seizures in manatees. Due to the seizures, the manatees aren’t able to swim properly and end up drowning and dying. Other effects of the red tide toxin include lack of coordination, muscle twitches, inability to keep their body orientation and labored breathing. However, if the manatees are rescued in time, most of them are able to recover. So if you encounter a sick manatee, report it immediately to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) through their email Tip@MyFWC.com, via the Hotline at 1-888-404-3922, or through the VHF Channel 16 on a marine radio. Some of the most frequent threats to the manatees include seagrass poisoned by the red tide, cold water, boat propellers and people who attempt to climb on them or ride them.

Reducing boat-related deaths

There were 107 manatees killed by watercraft in 2017. This year the FWC has reported that already 98 manatees have died from boat strikes. The increased number of manatee deaths from boat strikes led former Florida Gov. Bob Graham in 1979 to make November Manatee Awareness Month. November is also when these official state aquatic mammals migrate from the Gulf of Mexico, bays and rivers into the warmer water springs of Florida and when boaters need to be careful to take note of the speed zones to avoid collisions with the migrating manatees.

So what should you do to protect manatees when in their habitat?

Make sure to obey posted signs indicating the slow-speed zones. Slow down and ride at the designated speed when you are in these zones. Wear polarized sunglasses to help you clearly see manatees that are in your path. Manatees in a mating herd typically include several males vying to mate with a single female. Watch for such mating herds and make sure to avoid them by staying at least 100 feet away. Moving closer to them might disrupt their mating and also put you in grave danger — an adult manatee weighs more than 1,000 pounds. Don’t feed or give water to manatees as this may make them more comfortable with people and could increase their risk of injury or death. When underway, stow trash and line to avoid creating marine debris that can be blown overboard and become entangled around or ingested by manatees.

When should you contact the FWC?

You should contact the FWC via the hotline 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) whenever:

  1. You see a manatee with a fresh (red or pink) wound.
  2. 2. You notice a manatee that’s tilting to one side, has breathing difficulty or is unable to submerge.
  3. You see someone who is separating a cow from her calf.
  4. You see a manatee being harassed in any way.
  5. You see a boater speeding in a designated speed-zone or protected area.
  6. You notice a manatee calf all by itself for a long period of time and without an adult.
  7. You see a manatee entangled in crab-trap lines, monofilament or other debris.
  8. You see a dead manatee.

November is Manatee Awareness Month so you too can play your part. Grab some waterway cards, decals, boating banners, shoreline property signs or educational posters and use them to make people aware of their role in manatee protection. For more information on manatee protection and manatee tours, visit the “Captain Mike’s Swimming With The Manatees” site.

Swimming with the Manatees boasts the best water adventure in Crystal River, Florida with lots of things to do for you and your family. For more information, contact us online, or call us at (352) 571-1888.

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