Boating in Manatee Zone - What You Should Know

Boating in Manatee Zone: What You Should Know

The clear waters of the Florida coasts are home to some of the most diverse marine animals on earth, from fishes to birds and other underwater mammals like the bottlenose dolphins. Likewise, several remain threatened and endangered species in the estuarine and marine waters of the Everglades region, one of which is the gentle manatee. This is why certain boating rules and regulations are implemented, especially in the manatee zone.

Throughout the centuries, manatees captivated people’s imaginations, especially with their meek appearance. However, since manatees are solitary creatures, they prefer to swim slowly and spend their time in the coastal areas, munching on seagrass, and occasionally rising to the surface to breathe some air. Manatees often meet with other manatees to mate and take care of their young.

Threats and Manatee Conservation

Ever since coastal areas were converted into tourist spots, the usual habitat for manatees has been disturbed. It also does not help that the rise in popularity of boating gave way to irresponsible boating practices and activities.

Manatees evolved to become perfectly solitary species with no known predators. Most of the recorded threats towards manatees are human-induced: habitat loss, stress, and illegal hunting. Poachers often target manatees for their hide and oil. Manatees, being slow-moving creatures, are easy prey for these hunters and poachers.

Various conservation efforts, especially in the state of Florida, were developed to save the manatees as early as 1893 with the Florida State Law. The Florida Manatee Recovery Plan was the result of community efforts to save these peaceful creatures. One of the projects introduced by the recovery plan is the establishment of a manatee zone.

Manatee Protection Rules

As part of The Florida Manatee Recovery Plan, organizations and concerned citizens established a set of rules and boating tips that are strictly followed for the conservation plan to be successful. Early research shows that the majority of manatee deaths involve manatee boat accidents.

According to the study conducted by researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Center, almost 25% of manatee deaths recorded in the state are caused by collisions with boats. This is why the state established speed limits for boats that will pass by manatee zones. These regulations comply with Florida boating regulations.

Researchers believe that reducing the speed limit near manatee habitat can help reduce manatee deaths in three ways:

  1. The boat operator will have more than enough time to spot a manatee and react accordingly.
  2. There will be enough time for the manatee to react and retract.
  3. Reduce the level of injury in the manatee in case of collision.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Center strictly imposes rules regarding manatee zones. If an area is a designated manatee zone, entry automatically becomes limited, and the Florida boating regulations are automatically observed.

How Are Manatee Protection Rules Established and Implemented

When an area is being evaluated for its potential to become a manatee sanctuary, researchers will have to send a request citing reasons the area is fit to become a zone for manatees. A panel of experts will then gauge the different factors during evaluation. The typical factors to be considered are as follows:

  1. Manatee species are present in the area.
  2. Types of boats used for leisure or livelihood (yacht, manatee boats, etc.).
  3. Waterway characteristics.

What Kinds of Vessels Are Allowed in Manatee Zones?

Local ordinances can give permits to small leisure and livelihood boats depending on their distance to the manatee zone. Organizations like The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Center provide guidelines for boaters who are near manatee zones.

Paddle boats, research vessels, and an educational manatee boat are some of the vessels that are welcome within the habitat. If you are going boating in Florida and you notice signs referring to manatee habitats, here are the guidelines you have to observe.

1. Go boating with a companion.

Manatee laws in Florida are strictly implemented when it comes to boating near manatee habitats. If you plan to go boating and pass by a manatee zone, it is best if you have someone with you to monitor the area and look out for manatees. This will be beneficial in avoiding collisions with the slow-moving creatures and practicing the regulated boating safety tips. Your companions should always be alert to spot even a silhouette of the manatee and give you advice on areas to avoid.

2. Always look for a circular pattern in the water.

Manatees tend to leave behind what locals call “manatee footprints.” These are circular wave patterns on the surface of the water made by the manatee’s tail as it maneuvers while it swims or breaks into the surface for air.

3. Never pass directly over manatees.

If you ever encounter manatees during your boating tours, try to be alert for mothers and their calves. Never pass directly over manatees as it can cause panic in the animal. The panic can also cause the mother to be separated from her calf, and that leaves the juvenile manatee vulnerable to danger.

4. Wear polarized sunglasses.

Water reflects light harshly, especially during the summer season. This will provide some difficulty in seeing beneath the sea. When going boating on a sunny day, it is highly recommended to wear polarized glasses.

Polarized glasses are specifically designed to block glare and improve eyesight in harsh daylight. Wearing polarized glasses is beneficial when doing manatee boat tours in nearby manatee habitats because you can easily see beneath the waves for manatee activity.

5. Help clear the ocean of trash.

If you see trash among the waves or along the estuary stuck in mangrove roots, encourage yourself and everyone around you in manatee boat tours to clear up the trash. Garbage can endanger the lives of manatees and other marine animals.

Fish lines, plastics, and bottles are the common trash found in the ocean. Take a couple of minutes to make sure that you leave no trace, especially in the manatee habitat.

Bay Excursions Can Provide You With Boats For a Manatee Sighting Experience

If you are planning to go boating this spring or summer and are in need of a boat tour in Madeira Beach, FL, Bay Excursions is your go-to place. Bay excursions can give you boating tours around the coastal areas of Florida, and you’ll be sure that boating safety tips are observed.

Safely pass by and experience manatee sightings with our boat tours. Experience this one-of-a-kind adventure. Get some boating tips and call us now.

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