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October 17, 2009

What You Can Do to Help Manatees

There are lots of ways to protect these vulnerable marine mammals

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Manatee swimming free. iStockphoto.

Update: In June 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed providing year-round protection for manatees in important habitat in King's Bay of Crystal River, Florida. The new rules would restrict boat speeds and forbid harassing behavior like poking them or trying to stand on them.

With their habitat shrinking, their numbers dropping, and the state and federal governments fighting to avoid protecting them, manatees in Florida are in a precarious position right now, and they need all the help they can get. Here's what you can do.

  • Latch onto a license plate. Take part in the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles program that gives motorists the opportunity to purchase a "Save the Manatee" license plate.  Proceeds go to manatee and environmental research, protection and education programs.

  • Join the Club. You can work with private organizations, including the Save the Manatee Club and its Adopt-A-Manatee program, to support unreleasable manatees who live in sanctuaries throughout Florida. The Save the Manatee Club also supports research, education and conservation programs; promotes protective legislation; and produces a newsletter for the public.

  • Become a manatee-safe boater. Collisions with boats are the leading cause of manatee deaths. Boat owners can help reduce the risk of hitting manatees by avoiding, as much as possible, the coastal waters of Florida and surrounding manatee habitats. They should respect speed limits in Manatee Zones, use propeller guards on small motorboats and donate to manatee protection by purchasing a manatee decal when registering for boating licenses.

    Boaters should also remember to wear polarized sunglasses, which will help you see below the water's surface; stay in deep water channels and follow all posted boat speed regulations; and avoid boating over shallow seagrass beds, where manatees might be feeding.

    If you see a manatee when operating a powerboat, remember to maintain a safe distance of at least 50 feet and cut your motor if you are nearby.

  • Report manatees in trouble. If you see an injured, dead, harassed, tagged or orphaned manatee, contact The FFWCC at its manatee hotline: 1-888-404-FWCC, *FWC on your cellular phone, or use VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio.

  • Urge Florida to protect endangered species. Ask the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to review the state's listing criteria for imperiled species and revise it so that it matches that of the federal government or the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

  • Tell the federal government to protect manatees. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed rules to protect endangered manatees from being harassed, injured or killed by boats in King’s Bay of Crystal River, Florida—one of the most dangerous places for manatees. Learn more about the proposal and how to contact the FWS at fws.gov/crystalriver
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