Manatee Safety: Boating Tips to Protect Florida’s Sea Cows

There are a few rare creatures that are so wonderfully strange that they almost defy logic. Australia has the duck-billed platypus and Florida has the majestic sea cow. Though they may not be much to look at (no offense), manatees are nonetheless a highly protected, wholly unique resident of many of the Sunshine State’s waterways. Unfortunately, these docile, aquatic mammals are often at risk due to careless boaters. So, what manatee safety tips should you practice on your next trip? We have a few ideas that could protect you and those loveable sea cows.

Manatee Safety Tips

  • Look for the Signs: Follow all posted signs and warnings, including low wake zones, speed limits and manatee zones.
  • Keep an Eye Out: Manatees can be tough to spot. If possible, designate someone onboard to be the lookout while you maneuver your vessel.
  • Avoid Seagrass: Manatees can often be found grazing in beds of seagrass, so avoiding these areas altogether can keep you from a potential collision.
  • Look Before Starting Your Motor: If you cut your motor, be sure to check around your vessel before engaging your propeller, as manatees are known to investigate boats.
  • Keep Your Trash to Yourself: Littering in our waterways can injure or even kill manatees and other wildlife. Keep your garbage onboard until you get back ashore and can dispose of it appropriately.
  • Do Not Touch: As huggable as they may look, you must resist the urge to touch and directly interact with manatees. Feeding and petting manatees will lead to them growing too accustomed to human interaction. This may lead to them seeking out humans and getting hurt in the process.
  • Report Injuries Immediately: In the unfortunate case that your vessel collides with or clips a manatee, do not panic. Immediately call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) and alert them to the location of the injured animal. Time is of the essence.

With low reproduction rates, manatee safety is important to keep in mind when enjoying Florida’s many wonderful waterways. Keep an eye out for these gentle giants and do your part to keep our waterways clean and safe for everyone we share them with.