November is Manatee Awareness Month, an annual month-long dedication to imperiled manatees and their conservation in Florida and beyond. Former Florida Gov. Bob Graham first declared November as Manatee Awareness Month in 1979, when the state began designating manatee protection zones in areas where manatees gather during the winter. November is typically when manatees return to Florida’s warmer waters from their wider summer distributions. This year, as for the last 40 years, Save the Manatee Club invites the public to celebrate and safeguard imperiled manatees all month-long.
Manatees are listed as a “threatened” species by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and are listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List. These unique aquatic mammals face a variety of serious threats to their survival, including loss of habitat and toxic red tide algae. However, human-caused threats like watercraft collisions continue to rank as the largest known cause of manatee mortalities. “Manatee injuries and deaths from boat strikes can be prevented,” explains Patrick Rose, Save the Manatee Club’s aquatic biologist and executive director.
Manatees move slowly, surface to breathe air, and inhabit a range of freshwater and saltwater ecosystems. These characteristics make them especially susceptible to collisions with fast-moving boats in shallow areas. Obeying posted speed zones and looking out for manatees is the easiest way to avoid a potentially fatal collision. In addition, residents and visitors who enjoy boating in Florida are encouraged to review these manatee-safe boating tips at least each November. They are also reminded to avoid feeding, touching, or giving water to manatees, as these activities can disrupt their natural behavior and could eventually put them in harm’s way.
For more information about manatees and the club’s efforts, go to www.savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646). ¦