Please observe Manatee
Life Preservation Society
the Manatee Club
It may be hard to believe
that these wonderfully curious looking, whisker filled faces are probably what
spawned the legends of mermaids. Manatee's posses almost human looking eyes that
are sure to have mesmerized sailors who caught a glimpse of a passing manatee.
The manatee is a large, bulky aquatic mammal that can grow to 12
feet in length and weigh up to 3500 pounds. They may live to be 50 years old.
Like elephants, they continue to grow throughout their lives -- the largest manatee
ever recorded was 13 feet 4 inches long and weighed over thirty-two hundred pounds.
The manatee diet consists entirely of vegetation, consuming at a rate of 100 pounds
a day. They eat by using their divided upper lip, which is very flexible, to grasp
and take in aquatic plants. They are extremely gentle and have been described
as incapable of aggression. Manatees must periodically surface for air.
The warm Florida water provides wintering refuges for manatees
in natural warm water springs. They also are attracted to the warm water outflow
from power plants, where on occasion a manatee has gotten stuck and rescue efforts
have made the evening news.
The manatee has no known predators other than humans. In the 18th and 19th centuries,
humans hunted manatees extensively for their meat, fat, and tough hides. In some
parts of the Caribbean and South America, manatees are still hunted for food today.
One kind of manatee, the Stellar Sea Cow, is already extinct. Only
about 2000 Florida manatees are left around our state. Many live in the St. Johns
River. Manatees have babies once every five years, so not many babies are born
in fact more manatees are killed each year than are born. Manatees have no animal
predators; powerboats are now the greatest threat to manatees. Manatees are slow,
near-surface swimmers, and the number of collisions with motorboats is increasing
at a disturbing rate. In 1990, 218 manatees were killed in boating accidents,
and many more were injured. A recent project to capture, tag, and release manatees
revealed that many bore the scars of encounters with speedboats.
Other dangers to manatees are pollution, cold weather (which can give them the
flu), red tide, and running out of food in the winter.
Additionally, residential and commercial development along rivers and waterways
has also affected the manatee population. Habitat destruction has damaged estuarine
seagrass which manatees depend on. Chemical pollution has impaired the immune
systems of marine mammals, and the manatees may have become more vulnerable to
infection as a result. Recent mass deaths among marine mammals have been traced
to greater disease vulnerability due to chemical pollution.
We can help by not throwing trash in the water and by driving boats slowly and
carefully in manatee zones. Also, we should never chase a manatee to try and pet
Only a concentrated effort to protect them in their marine habitat will save manatees
The cause of death breakdown for the Manatee is as follows:
Watercraft - 23%
Flood Gates/Canal Locks - 4%
Other Human - 3%
Dependent Calf - 21%
Other Natural - 17%
Undetermined - 32%
(as of 9/30/00)
FROM THE FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COMMISSION
The West Indian manatee
is an endangered species and is protected by state and federal law. Please avoid
harassing or disturbing manatees. Harassment is defined as any activity which
alters the animal's natural behavior. By altering the manatee's natural behavior,
you may create the likelihood of danger that is bad for the animal and against
BEING NEAR MANATEES
· Look, but don't touch manatees. Also, don't feed manatees or give them
water. If manatees become accustomed to being around people, they can alter their
behavior in the wild, perhaps causing them to lose their natural fear of boats
and humans, and this may make them more susceptible to harm. Passive observation
is the best way to interact with manatees and all wildlife.
· Do not pursue or chase a manatee while you are swimming, snorkeling,
diving or operating a boat.
· Never poke, prod or stab a manatee with your hands, feet or any object.
· If a manatee avoids you, you should avoid it.
· Don't isolate or single our an individual manatee from its group, and
don't separate a cow and her calf.
· Don't attempt to snag, hook, hold, grab, pinch or ride a manatee.
· Avoid excessive noise and splashing if a manatee appears in your swimming
· Use snorkel gear when attempting to watch manatees. The sound of bubbles
from SCUBA gear may cause manatees to leave the area.
· When snorkeling don't wear a weight belt. Float at the surface of the
water and passively observe the manatee. Look, but don't touch.
DON'T ENTER AREAS DESIGNATED AS "NO ENTRY MANATEE REFUGE"
These areas have been identified by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services as crucial manatee survival.
WHEN BOATING OR JET SKIING
· Abide by the posted speed zone signs while in areas known to have manatees
present or when observations indicate manatees might be present. Observations
may include a swirl on the surface caused by the manatee when diving; seeing the
animals back, snout, tail, or flipper break the surface of the water; or hearing
it when it surfaces to breathe.
· Wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare on the surface of the water.
This will enable you to see manatees more easily.
· Try to stay in deep-water channels. Manatees can be found in shallow,
slow-moving rivers, estuaries, lagoons, and coastal areas. Avoid boating over
seagrass beds and shallow areas.
· Remain at least 50 feet away from a manatee when operating a powerboat.
Don't operate a boat over large concentrations of manatees.
· If you like to water ski, please choose areas that manatees do not use,
or cannot enter, such as land-locked lakes.
· Please don't discard monofilament line, hooks, or any other litter into
the water. Manatees may ingest or become entangled in this debris and can become
injured or even die. Note: discarding monofilament fishing line into the waters
of Florida is unlawful.
LOOK BUT DON'T TOUCH. INTERACTIONS WITH HUMANS MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO THE MANATEE'S
Observe the signs
Idle Speed Zone
a zone in which boats are not permitted to go any faster than necessary to be
Slow Speed Zone
a minimum-wake zone where boats must not be on a plane and must be level in the
an area frequently inhabited by manatees, requiring caution on the part of boaters
to avoid disturbing or injuring the animals.
Resume Normal Safe Operation
a sign indicating that you may resume safe boating speed; visible as you leave
a protected area.
No Entry Zone
a protected zone that prohibits boating, swimming, and diving for the protection
Protection by law
The manatee is protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act
of 1972 and by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which make it illegal to harass,
hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal. the manatee is also protected by the
Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978, which states: "It is unlawful for
any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass,
or disturb any manatee."
Anyone convicted of violating this state law faces a possible maximum fine of
$500 and/or imprisonment for up to 60 days. Conviction on the federal level is
punishable by fine of up to $50,000 and/or one year in prison. The State of Florida
can pursue prosecution under federal law in circumstances of extreme harassment,
resulting in the death or injury of a manatee.
Resources for the creation
of this page gathered from various sources including: