Many Floridians and visitors to the Sunshine State will be heading to the water over the Memorial Day Weekend. Remember that manatees and other wildlife will be enjoying the waterways, too, so boaters are reminded to keep a watchful eye out for them, cautions Save the Manatee Club.
A variety of free public awareness materials from the Club are available to Florida’s boating community and shoreline property owners to protect endangered manatees.
Bright yellow, waterproof boating banners easily and quickly alert other boaters to “Please Slow, Manatees Below,” when the often difficult to spot slow-moving marine mammals are sighted in a high boat traffic area.
Also available at no cost are yellow dock signs with a similar message for shoreline property owners in Florida, as well as boating decals and waterway cards which feature the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) hotline number (1-888-404-3922) for reporting manatees in distress.
Steven Smith from Palm City, Florida posted the Club’s free dock signs on his property located on historic Bessey Creek. “I have signs facing east and west, so hopefully boaters traveling either direction will go slow and realize they’re not the only ones using the waterways,” said Smith. Smith also said he saw a manatee mom and calf swim by when he was putting up one of the signs. “I was amazed! I said we need more of these signs posted NOW!”
Save the Manatee Club is often contacted by concerned individuals who are frustrated to see boats speeding in their back yards or in areas where they enjoy boating. “The free materials that we provide help these concerned citizens to be proactive in protecting manatees, and that’s a winning situation for everyone involved,” says Katie Tripp, the Club’s Director of Science and Conservation. “Boat traffic on Florida waterways usually increases dramatically on holiday weekends in the summer, putting manatees at greater risk from watercraft strikes if boaters are not careful and compliant with posted speed zones while out recreating on Florida’s waters.”
There are general guidelines that boaters can follow to protect manatees from injury or death. Follow all posted boat speed regulations, slow down if manatees are in the vicinity, and stay in deep water channels if possible. Wear polarized sunglasses while operating a boat to make it easier to spot manatees under the surface. If you see an injured, dead, tagged or orphaned manatee, or a manatee who is being harassed, call the FWC at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on your cellular phone, or VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio, or send a text message to Tip@MyFWC.com. Boaters should also call this number if a manatee is accidentally hit. More “Manatee Protection Tips for Boaters” can be found on the Club’s website at www.savethemanatee.org/boatertips.htm.
Also download the free Manatee Alert App for iPhones and iPads at http://bit.ly/15EYen6, which notifies boaters when they are approaching manatee speed zones and helps facilitate the reporting of injured manatees and manatee harassment.
The free boating banners, dock signs, boat decals, and waterway cards can be obtained by contacting Save the Manatee Club via e-mail at email@example.com, by regular mail at 500 N. Maitland Ave., Maitland, FL 32751, or by calling toll free at 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).
For more information on manatees, the Adopt-A-Manatee® program, or to sign up for the Club’s free e-newsletter, visit the Club’s website at www.savethemanatee.org.