What’s the History of “Manatee Awareness” Month?
The rare and threatened Florida manatee enjoying the balmy warm water at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
Greetings! I recently blogged about how November is Manatee Awareness Month! In this blog, I would like to talk about the history of this wonderful occasion for increasing awareness of manatees.
It was back in 2005, when the state of Florida declared November be the month to make people aware of not only manatees, but also large aquatic mammals living near the Florida coast and in the warm coastal waters of the Atlantic. Since the manatee is an herbivore, where it eats only plants, it faces several threats from human activity. Research shows that, “An estimated 25 percent of all manatee deaths in Florida are caused by collisions with boat hulls and propellers, and about 80 percent of living manatees bear scars from boat injuries.”
The manatee is also warm-blooded and needs water temperatures of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 Celsius). Unfortunately, development on the Florida coastline has affected some warm-water springs that the manatee uses to stay warm.
It was back in 1966 when Florida manatees were first listed as an endangered species. Today, manatees are listed as threatened. “However scientists feel that manatees should be listed again as “endangered” again because one event such as recent red tide can wipe out a significantly large number of these marine mammals.
My good friends at Save the Manatee Club would like to remind you if you are a Florida resident or visiting Florida, please pay attention to manatees when you’re navigating our waterways. Why? Because so many of us manatees get struck by watercraft. How does this happen? You see, we surface for air every 5 minutes and as we do, a passing boat that does not see us in the water can have its propellers slice through our upper bodies.
Mr. Patrick Rose, Executive Director for Save the Manatee Club co-founded by singer Jimmy Buffett explains,“Anyone who spots a manatee in need of assistance, remember that help is only a phone call away. Manatee rescue personnel from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) provide a vital service to manatees in trouble. The FWC investigates the calls that come in to their 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) hotline number, and if necessary, will coordinate a manatee’s rescue in cooperation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and rescue teams from facilities such as SeaWorld Orlando. With continued efforts from concerned citizens and especially members of the boating public, more manatee lives can be saved.”
It is the Save the Manatee Club, which acts as “a clearinghouse for injured manatee calls from the public, helping to facilitate a successful rescue.” The Club assists in manatee rescue by “donating rescue boats, tracking and other equipment, as well as funding.”
If you see any of the bulleted circumstances below affecting manatees, please quickly respond by calling 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), *FWC or #FWC on their cellular phones, or by using VHF Channel 16 on their marine radios:
- If you see a dead manatee.
- If you see a manatee with a pink or red wound. This means the wound is fresh.
- If the manatee is tilting to one side, unable to submerge, seems to have trouble breathing or is acting strangely.
- If you observe a manatee calf by herself with no adults around for an extended period of time. Manatee calves may remain dependent on their mothers for up to two years. If the mother dies before the calf is weaned, there is a strong likelihood the calf will not survive alone.
- If you see anyone harassing a manatee in any way.
- If you see boaters speeding in a protected area.
- If you see a manatee entangled in monofilament, crab-trap lines or other debris. Do not attempt to remove debris by yourself. Debris may be embedded underneath the skin and only a trained veterinarian can adequately assess and treat wounds.
- If you see a manatee tagged with a radio or satellite transmitter.
The Save the Manatee Club explains, “There are more ways to help with manatee protection. Florida shoreline property owners can request a free aluminum dock sign from Save the Manatee Club, which says, ‘Please Watch for Manatees: Operate with Care.’E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call toll free at 1-800-432-JOIN (5646) and be sure to include contact information plus the address where the sign will be posted.”
The Club also states “The Florida boating public can request a free ‘Please Slow: Manatees Below’ waterproof banner which allows quick communication with other boaters whenever manatees are present. Free boater awareness posters are also available to dive shops, marinas, businesses, schools and libraries interested in displaying a poster in store-fronts and hi-traffic areas to help educate others about manatee conservation. The message says, ‘Navigate with Care, Manatees are There’, and encourages the boating community to ‘Boat Safely.’ Manatee protection tips are available on the Club’s website at www.savethemanatee.org/boatertips.htm. “
So please be proactive!
If you are in Florida and you see a sick or injured manatee, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: 1-888-404-FWCC. They are the folks who are responsible for rescuing us in Florida.
Here’s the Save the Manatee Clublink to learn more about manatees …
Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …
~ Kobee Manatee