NewsProtecting Paradise


Manatees in warm waterways put them in danger of boaters

FWC: 76 have been killed by boats this year
Posted at 11:49 PM, Dec 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-29 11:58:30-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Wildlife officials are urging people to be cautious out on the water as temperatures are slowly climbing in South Florida.

Palm Beach County's Department of Environmental Resources Management is urging people to watch out for manatees.

"I've seen a ton of manatees around the docks in the intracoastal, where people like to motor around peanut island, so that's where they're hanging out," local diver Rayna O'Nan said.

She says manatees that were seeking warmer waters have been on the move as the weather warms back up, leaving many in the path of boats.

"Unfortunately, whenever we see manatees, they do have boat strikes, so it tells us that it is a problem but they're just hanging out so the thing to look for is that they're right at the surface," O'Nan said.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife, so far this year nearly 800 manatees have died, 76 of which were from boaters.

"We really just want to ask our boaters the boating community to be really cognizant of where they're going potentially any new zones or seasonal zones, just so we can help the manatees the best we can," Capt. Thomas Van Trees with FWC said.

Lack of food has also impacted the population, leading FWC officials to relaunch a program that fed manatees some 100 tons of lettuce last year near Cape Canaveral.

"We want to be strategic and get most of the animals that we can with the most amount of food so that's where we want to be and that's where we are," said Ron Mezich, with the imperiled species management of FWC.

Mezich says nutrient-based issues caused a major collapse on seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon, which is a major source of food for manatees,

"We're all in on recovery of seagrasses in the lagoon and this will remain a temporary process of feeding the wild population and we hope we can end it as soon as possible," Mezich said.

FWC officials urge people not to feed manatees and if you see one that's injured to call their hotline at 888-404-fwcc (3922)