FWC urges boaters to look out for migrating manatees

— The FWC urges boaters to follow the posted speed zones and watch for manatees as temperatures warm. Manatees are once again moving from warm water sites to coastal areas where they forage for food, rest and care for their young.

The number of documented manatee deaths resulting from watercraft strikes was higher than average statewide from December to March 27. It was particularly high in the southeastern region of Florida where necropsy results show that at least 17 manatees died from boat strikes. The FWC has been carefully following the mortality numbers, and researchers have provided regular updates to management and law enforcement, regarding the location and movement of manatees. FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement used the information to direct patrols in the areas of concern.

The public is encouraged to call FWC’s Wildlife Alert hotline, 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) to report any dead or injured manatees.

Now with the warmer temperatures, manatees will be vulnerable as they migrate and forage in the same waterways shared by many boaters along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

“Boaters can help manatees have a safe migration by staying in marked channels, wearing polarized sunglasses to improve vision, obeying posted boat speed zones and having someone help scan the water when under way,” said Kipp Frohlich, leader of the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Section.

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/.

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Warm-weather speed zone changes (more restrictive - Slow Speed)

Citrus County

March 1 to Aug. 31

A portion of the Withlacoochee River and a portion of the channel in the Gulf leading to Withlacoochee River and Bennets Creek/East Pass area are more restrictive.

April 1 to Aug. 31

A portion of Chassahowitzka River is more restrictive.

Hillsborough County

April 1 to Nov. 15

Portion of Old Tampa Bay, north of Courtney Campbell Causeway (SR 60)

Lee County

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 Buck Key are more restrictive, as are 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.

Pinellas County

April 1 to Nov. 15

Portions of Old Tampa Bay and Safety Harbor

Volusia County

April 1 to Aug. 31

Portions of Tomoka River and Spruce Creek

Winter-season speed zones still in effect during April:

Citrus County

Until April 30

Idle speed or slow speed – portions of Kings Bay.

Slow speed – portions of the Homosassa River between the Salt River and Trade Winds Marina and southern portion of Halls River.

Slow speed – all waters near the Florida Power Corporation’s effluent 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 Venetian Causeway.

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, and 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 area.

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: http://www.flrules.org/ or MyFWC.com/WILDLIFEHABITATS/Manatee_index.htm or by contacting FWC at 850-922-4330.

Zone Definitions

Idle speed (No wake) – Lowest speed needed to maintain steering and make headway (speed used when docking a boat).

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 machinery.

No entry – No vessels or other human-related activities allowed.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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