State officials are asking boaters to watch out for manatees as they begin their annual migration to warmer water.
Florida is home to more than 6,600 manatees. With the arrival of Manatee Awareness Month, boaters are asked to slow down and begin looking out for the large aquatic mammals in waterways throughout the state.
Many seasonal manatee protection zones go into effect Nov. 15. Though some signs identifying manatee zones may have been damaged by Hurricane Irma, information on manatee zone locations is also available online.
Those that see damaged waterway signs should report them at MyFWC.com/Boating by clicking on “Waterway Management,” “Waterway Markers” and then “Damaged/Missing Waterway Markers.”
Earlier this year, the Florida manatee was reclassified from endangered to a threatened status, under the federal Endangered Species Act, in a decision announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While this is a notable step, state officials say there is still work to be done to ensure continued progress toward recovery of the official state marine mammal.
“People’s efforts to help Florida manatees are working. Let’s celebrate the fact that conservation actions are making a difference and manatees are no longer endangered by thanking all the individuals and organizations that contributed to this milestone,” said Carol Knox, who leads the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Imperiled Species Management Section.
“It’s important though to remain vigilant,” Knox said. “Let’s keep up the efforts that are helping with manatee recovery.”
How can people keep making a difference for manatees?
• Watch for these large aquatic mammals as they search for warmer waters to help them survive winter’s cold, which they generally find in freshwater springs and the outflow of power plants.
• Wear polarized sunglasses to spot them moving, grazing and resting in the water. Keep a lookout for the circular “footprints” they leave on the surface of the water.
• Slow down when boating and follow posted manatee zones.
• Observe manatees from a distance to limit disturbance.
• Report injured, entangled, orphaned or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on your cellphone or text Tip@MyFWC.com.
Also, continue to support the manatee decal and license plate.
Want to see a manatee? Go to MyFWC.com/Manatee and click on the link in the “Where Can I See Manatees?” box.