From Save the
Water sports enthusiasts, boaters, anglers, divers, and beach-goers seeking getaway fun in Florida over the long Memorial Day weekend, remember to watch out for manatees, cautions Save the Manatee Club. Human-induced manatee injuries and deaths are an ongoing concern year-round for the manatee population in the Sunshine State, with increased risk on busy boating holidays.
“It is important to remember that vessels of all shapes and sizes are capable of injuring or killing manatees, including personal watercraft such as jet skis and wave runners,” explains Dr. Katie Tripp, Director of Science and Conservation for the Club. “People often associate boat propellers with manatee injuries and don’t realize that blunt force trauma inflicted by a propeller skeg or vessel hull is often more deadly.”
Save the Manatee Club offers a variety of free public awareness materials to Florida’s boating community and shoreline property owners to protect Florida’s endangered manatees.
Bright yellow, waterproof boating banners are available at no cost from the Club to easily and quickly alert other boaters to “Please Slow, Manatees Below,” when the sometimes difficult to spot marine mammals are sighted in a particular area. Free yellow dock signs for shoreline property owners in Florida, along with boating decals and new waterway cards, are also available. Each features the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) hotline number (1-888-404-3922) for reporting manatees in trouble.
Trevor Evans, who owns a home on the Caloosahatchee River just below the Franklin Lock in Lee County, posted the Club’s dock sign recently. “I wanted to do my part to protect manatees and preserve their habitat,” he said. “The sign has definitely helped to slow down the boat traffic in the area. It’s amazing how many people cruise near the sign and are obviously reading it.”
Tripp says, “People often contact us and are so frustrated to see boats speeding in their back yard or favorite boating area. 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.”
In addition to the educational materials listed, Save the Manatee Club is also giving away four mobile marine and lake apps (for iPhones, iPads, etc.), and one Fishin’ Chip, donated by Navionics.
“These products will assist boaters in safely navigating the waterways which helps improve boating safety and manatee safety,” adds Tripp.
The mobile app allows the downloading of charts from any fresh or saltwater system in the United States, as well as provides tide, current, and wind data, route planning and tracking, and marker location. The Chip provides 3D views, shaded depth contours, seagrass areas, manatee zones, fishing data, and more. To qualify for the drawing, those interested are asked to send an e-mail to email@example.com and request one of the Club’s free boating safety packets. The drawing closes July 31, 2012 and no purchase is necessary.
The Club urges boaters to be on the lookout for manatees this Memorial Day weekend and every day they are out on the water. 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 use VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio. Boaters should also call this number if a manatee is accidentally hit.
The free banners, decals & signs can be obtained by contacting Save the Manatee Club via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by regular mail at 500 N. Maitland Ave., Maitland, FL 32751, or by calling toll free at 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).