Florida ranks as deadliest state for manatees hit by boats

Boats in Florida are to blame for more than 20 manatee deaths this year. But, there are ways people can protect these precious sea animals.

In Southwest Florida, it is not just a prime spot for boaters. The warm waters make it a desirable home for dolphins and manatees.

When Tony Foster sees a dolphin or manatee in the water, he slows down his boat and maneuvers around the animal. However, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said too many boaters do not steer away from manatees.

Foster told WINK News firsthand what happens if a boater comes to close.

“They’ll run up on them and they’ll stick their head out the side of the boat, start slapping on it,” Foster said. “I have actually seen an old man run over a dolphin.”

It is illegal to chase manatees. In the first six months of 2019, more than 20 manatees died after being hit by a boat, making Lee County waters the deadliest in the state.

“We do know that the trend for registered boaters in the state of Florida and for Lee County has increased,” said Brian Norris, who works for the FWC, “and also with manatees, the number has increased.”

Norris educates boaters on the rules of the water and one thing he wants to stress is to pay attention to warning signs.

“It may say it’s 25 mph in a certain area or it may say it’s slow speed minimum wake outside of the channel,” Norris said.

If a boater is caught passing through a manatee zone too fast, the FWC will stop the driver.

“If they’re cited for it,” Norris said, “it’s an $88 fine.”

Manatee Protection Zones:


Reporter:Janae Muchmore
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