By Miguel Montalvo
November is Manatee Awareness Month!
This has been a tough year for the Florida manatee. So far, 732 manatees have died, more than the 538 total in 2017. Part of the reason for this unusually high mortality rate is the current red tide bloom (which is known or suspected to have caused 191 manatee mortalities). However, watercraft strikes and other factors also contribute.
These gentle mammals need your help. You can donate to Mote’s Manatee Research Program by visiting https://mote.org/support, selecting the designation “Marine animal research and conservation” and writing “Manatee research” in the comment box.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: As the weather cools, manatees are on the move, searching for warmer waters to survive the winter. Remember: Disturbing manatees at warm-water sites may cause them to leave those areas at a time when it is critical for them to remain there.
Tips for boaters:
- Follow Coast Guard-approved safe boating guidelines, comply with slow speed zone signs and use vigilance to avoid striking sea turtles manatees.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare on the surface of the water, which will enable you to see manatees more easily.
- Practice passive observation by watching manatees from a distance.
- Please do not give manatees water or food. Doing so can alter their natural behavior, encouraging them to approach docks, marinas and other human-made structures rather than natural, reliable sources. This can increase the manatees' risk of injuries from boat strikes or fishing gear.
- Avoid boating over seagrass beds and shallow areas. Manatees are often found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, lagoons and coastal areas.
- Stow trash and line when under way. Marine debris that accidentally blows overboard or out of a truck can become ingested by or entangled around marine life.
If you see a manatee in distress:
- To report manatee deaths, injuries, harassment, accidents, or or manatees orphaned in Sarasota or Manatee counties in Florida, please call Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program’s 24-hour pager (941-988-0212) and leave a message. You can also call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), dial #FWC or *FWC on your cell phone, or text: Tip@MyFWC.com