Take extra care on waterways as manatees migrate after a rough winter
Monday, March 22, 2010
Media contact: Patricia Behnke, 850-251-2130
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) urges boaters to follow posted speed zones and
watch for manatees as temperatures warm. Manatees are moving from
warm-water sites to coastal areas, where they forage for food and
rest and care for their young.
The FWC requests that people take special care to
avoid coming close to these marine mammals that are already
stressed because of the prolonged cold winter. The migration of
manatees occurs at the same time that the boating season heats up
in Florida, with spring break bringing thousands of boaters to the
state's waterways. With the warmer temperatures, manatees will be
even more vulnerable as they migrate and forage in the same
waterways shared by many boaters along the Gulf and Atlantic
"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 Kipp Frohlich,
leader of the FWC's Imperiled Species Management Section.
The FWC has been carefully following manatee
movements, and researchers have provided regular updates to
management and law enforcement regarding the location and movement
of manatees. The FWC's Division of Law Enforcement uses the
information to direct patrols in the areas of concern.
"Boaters can help manatees have a safe migration by
staying in marked channels, wearing polarized sunglasses to improve
vision, and obeying posted boat speed zones," Frohlich said.
"Boaters also should scan the water near or in front of the boat,
looking for swirls resembling a large footprint, a repetitive line
of half-moon swirls, a mud trail or a snout or fluke breaking the
During warm weather, some waterways will have more
restrictive waterway speed zones. Boaters in Citrus, Hillsborough,
Lee, Pinellas and Volusia counties should be aware of speed zone
changes in a few manatee habitat locations.
For more information about manatees, visit
MyFWC.com/Manatee. You can help manatees by purchasing a "Save the
Manatee" license plate. Funds raised from the manatee license plate
help fund ongoing research and conservation. For more information,
go to www.buyaplate.com. The public should call the
FWC's Wildlife Alert hotline, 888-404-FWCC (3922) to report any
dead or distressed manatees.
The following speed zones are now more restrictive ("Slow
March 1 to Aug. 31 - A portion of
the Withlacoochee River and a portion of the channel in the Gulf
leading to the Withlacoochee River and Bennetts Creek/East Pass
April 1 to Aug. 31 - A portion of
the Chassahowitzka River
April 1 to Nov. 15 - A portion of
Old Tampa Bay, north of Courtney Campbell Causeway (State Road
April 1 to Nov. 15
- Portions of Pine Island Sound, which includes Pelican Bay and
the eastern side of Captiva from Redfish Pass to the south end of
- the areas from St. James City wrapping around the western end
of York Island to north of Galt Island; and
- all of Hurricane Bay and most of Estero and Big Hickory bays,
except for the marked channels and other speed zone areas.
April 1 to Nov. 15 - Portions of
Old Tampa Bay and Safety Harbor
April 1 to Aug. 31 - Portions of
the Tomoka River and Spruce Creek
Winter-season speed zones in the following areas are still in
effect during April:
Citrus County (until April
- Idle speed or slow speed - portions of Kings
- Slow speed - portions of the Homosassa River
between the Salt River and Trade Winds Marina and the southern
portion of Halls River
- Slow speed - all waters near the Florida Power
Corporation discharge canal
Dade County (until April 30)
- No entry - portions of the Biscayne Canal,
Little River and Coral Gables Canal
- Slow speed - within portions of Meloy (or
East) Channel and portions of the Intracoastal Waterway in
Dumfoundling Bay and Biscayne Bay between Broad Causeway and
Indian River County (until 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,
- from Channel Marker 156 south to St. Lucie County line west of
the Intracoastal Waterway.
St. Lucie County
Until April 15
Slow speed - within Garfield Cut/Fish House Cove
Until April 30
Slow speed - within Intracoastal Waterway channel between
North Beach Causeway south to Channel Marker 189 and within the
Shark Cut Channel in the Ft. Pierce Inlet area.
Volusia County (until April 15)
- Motorboats prohibited - Blue Spring Run.
- Slow speed - St. Johns River, south of Lake
Beresford to Channel Marker 67.
Complete copies of individual county waterway rules
are available at www.flrules.org or MyFWC.com/Manatee or by
contacting FWC at 850-922-4330.
- Idle speed (No wake) - Lowest speed needed to
maintain steering and make headway (speed used when docking a
- Slow speed (No excessive wake) - Fully off
plane and completely settled in the water, not plowing. This
enables boats to move through an area with little or no impact to
natural resources, shoreline erosion or other boaters.
- Motorboats prohibited zone - Entry is
prohibited for any vessel being propelled or powered by
- No entry - No vessels or other human-related