News Releases

Tampa Bay boaters: Manatees on the move

News Release

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Media contact: Officer JoAnne Adams, 863-581-6990; Gary Morse, 863-648-3200

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) cautions boaters in the greater Tampa Bay area to be on the lookout for manatees moving into feeding areas from warm-water refuges.  Almost 300 manatees are moving out of the Tampa Electric Company (TECO) discharge canal into shallow-water feeding areas to the north off Gibsonton and south near Apollo Beach. Boaters should slow down and strictly obey posted speed restrictions in manatee protection zones.

The FWC urges people to take special care to avoid coming close to these marine mammals that are already stressed because of the prolonged cold snap.

"The greatest danger of boat strikes to manatees occurs when high concentrations of these mammals move out of warm-water refuges and head toward feeding areas. Boaters should use extreme care as this pattern develops," said Capt. Roger Young, FWC law enforcement supervisor for Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

FWC law enforcement officers have increased patrols and are strictly enforcing manatee-protection-zone speed limits to aid the animals during this period when they are most vulnerable to vessel strikes.

To avoid striking manatees, vessel operators should wear polarized sunglasses to help them spot the creatures in the water, and watch for the large, tell-tale circular slicks on the surface of the water (manatee footprints) that indicate the presence of manatees.

If you would like more information on Florida's manatees, visit or call the FWC's regional office in Lakeland at 863-648-3200.  To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

FWC Facts:
Personal watercraft may not be operated from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, even if navigation lights are used.

Learn More at AskFWC