Boating Laws and Manatees

In Florida, approximately 25 to 30 percent of manatee deaths are attributed to watercraft. These gentle
giants, which are at risk of becoming extinct, are protected by rules established by the Fish and Wildlife
When coming into contact with manatees while boating, the best policy is to look, but don’t touch.
Interaction with manatees can be considered harassment, which is unlawful. The suggested distance to
maintain is a minimum of 50 feet. If you want to stay and observe these magnificent creatures, cut your
Manatee zones are areas that are key to the survival of manatees – such as warm bodies of water and
feeding and spawning grounds. Rules can prohibit or limit entry, as well as restrict watercraft speed and
activities there. If you are a boater, become familiar with the location of manatee regulation zones
before you set sail. Remain in the channel, and avoid seagrass beds and shallow areas where manatees
may feed.
Manatees will also use deep water channels, so keep an eye out for them wherever you boat. It helps to
wear polarized sunglasses, so that you can see below the water’s surface. Look for a snout, tail or flipper
or a swirl on the surface which appears when they dive. You may also hear a manatee when it surfaces
to breathe.
Manatees and other wildlife can get entangled in debris and become injured or die. In fact, discarding
monofilament line into Florida waters can be so dangerous to these animals that it is against the law.
Please be mindful of the safety of manatees, and discard your trash in waste bins when you return to
Also resist the urge to feed manatees. It can be tempting because they are so amazing, but feeding them
can only hurt them. When you feed the manatees, you could alter their natural feeding patterns and
cause them to remain in the area and wait to be fed when there is no longer a food source.

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