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Boaters Urged To Slow Down As Manatees Migrate To Warmer Waters

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

This is the time of year when manatees start migrating to warmer waters, and state wildlife officials are urging boaters to slow down.

Florida’s manatee population is up, with 6,250 counted back in February. Yet boat strikes have killed 91 manatee so far this year.

“A pretty high number of animals that are taken out of the population each year due to watercraft strikes. And that’s something that we can manage,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Ron Mezich. “It’s hard to manage cold weather, and it’s hard to manage red tides, but some of the things we do we can help reduce those impacts.”

That’s why obeying speed zones is crucial as manatees head toward warmer waters.

“A lot of animals will be traveling to these warm water sites as temperatures get cooler,” Mezich said. “To give you a little idea, some of these warm water sites could have hundreds of manatees on a given day at them.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife is expected to decide next year whether the West Indian manatee will be downlisted from “endangered” to “threatened.”

Many manatee zones will start being enforced November 15th.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Zone Rules:

Brevard County
Nov. 15 - March 31
“No-entry and motorboats-prohibited zones - North Indian River area around discharge canals of the Reliant Corp. Power Plant and Florida Power and Light's Frontenac Power Plant. Idle speed zone - West of Intracoastal Waterway”

Volusia County
Oct. 15 - April 15
“Motorboats prohibited - Blue Spring Run. Slow speed - St. Johns River, south of Lake Beresford to Channel Marker 67.”

Indian River County
Nov. 1 - April 30
“Slow speed - Within Sand and Shell islands area, Channel Marker 66 south to Channel Marker 75; Indian River area from Hobert Lodge Marina to North Canal, and from Channel Marker 156 south to St. Lucie County line west of the Intracoastal Waterway.”

Nov. 15 - March 31
“No entry - Portion of canal system adjacent to Vero Beach Power Plant.”