Manatee Protection Zones established for spring
Manatee and calf swimming together in Crystal River, FL.
Manatees in Florida face threats including habitat loss, boat strikes and cold stress, and their populations have declined significantly over the years. But conservation efforts and protective measures have helped to stabilize their numbers.
Boaters must be especially careful in spring to avoid manatees as they leave warm winter water and travel throughout the state. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has manatee protection zones marked for boaters.
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From April 1 to Nov. 15, boaters must slow down in certain areas to prevent manatees from being injured or killed by motorboats or personal watercraft, the agency says. Maps of the protection zones can be found on the agency’s website.
Manatee locations in Florida include the warm springs of Crystal River, the rivers of the Everglades, and the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Many areas offer manatee viewing tours and educational programs to observe these gentle creatures in their natural habitat.
Ways that humans can protect manatees and contribute to their conservation include the following:
• Follow responsible boating practices to avoid collisions with manatees, such as staying in designated boating channels, observing no-wake zones and reducing speed in areas known to be frequented by manatees.
• Support conservation of crucial seagrass beds and other shallow water habitats by reducing pollution and waste and taking other steps against climate change and by supporting organizations that protect marine habitats.
• Report sightings and injuries to the appropriate authorities, such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Alert Hotline, 888-404-3922.
• Avoid feeding or interacting with manatees to prevent disrupting their natural behavior. Observe manatees from a safe distance.
• Educate others about the importance of manatees and their conservation needs.