The Save the Manatee Club spent a lot of time last month promoting National Safe Boating Week, May 22-28, the official launch of the 2021 Safe Boating Campaign, but the group’s work to keep sea life safe doesn’t end there. This yearlong campaign promotes recreational boating safety, such as wearing life jackets and not boating while under the influence of alcohol. Save the Manatee Club also uses the campaign, which kicks off the week before Memorial Day Weekend, to remind boaters of manatee-safe boating tips.
During the summer, manatees are found in shallow estuaries, bays, rivers, canals and coastal areas throughout Florida and in neighboring states. Because imperiled manatees are generally slow-moving and must surface to breathe air, they are especially vulnerable to collisions with fast-moving watercraft. Boat accidents are the primary cause of human-related manatee deaths.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), most manatee deaths from watercraft collisions are caused by blunt force impact, meaning that the speeds at which boaters are traveling are causing strikes with deadly force. Those manatees that survive bear scars from their injuries. In fact, most living manatees have some sort of scar from a boat collision.
These tragic accidents are preventable with education, awareness and the care of the boating community.
Boaters, paddlers or those who spend time near the water are also encouraged to be a voice for manatees by immediately reporting injured, malnourished, orphaned, entangled, stranded or dead manatees to the FWC or its local state wildlife officials.
Save the Manatee Club offers a number of free materials available upon request to help safeguard manatees and increase awareness of manatee-safe boating tips. Shoreline property owners as well as park and marina managers can order aluminum signs alerting others to the presence of manatees in the area. Boaters and paddlers can request packets that include a safety tips card, a waterproof boat banner and a decal to adhere to your vessel with the number to report manatees in distress. Order free materials at savethemanatee.org/resources.
Save the Manatee Club was founded in 1981 by singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett and former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham to protect manatees and their aquatic habitat. For more information about manatees and the club’s efforts, go to savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).