Manatee Awareness Month

by in Environmental News November 21, 2018

As the temperatures start to cool and manatees begin their yearly search for warm water, it is important to be aware of the threats facing the sea-cows and take necessary precautions to protect these gentle creatures.

November is Manatee Awareness Month! The holidays are upon us, and as we enter into the winter months it is important to understand where manatees seek refugee from the cold water to limit risk due to human activity. These incredible, gentle animals will be seen more frequently as they move towards canals, ports, and power plants to stay warm. While this is an amazing opportunity to see a part of Florida’s unique environment, great care should be taken when boating or viewing the manatees to avoid harming them.

Manatee Migrations:

Manatees live in warm coastal areas. When the temperature cools during the winter, these aquatic mammals seek warm refugee in canals, ports, and other smaller regions. They often huddle together in large groups for warmth in the shallow water. This change in pattern increases manatee vulnerability, as they are at an increased risk for boating accidents in smaller waterways. Manatees also move to power plants, as the water used for cooling processes at these plants is expelled back into the rivers and the ocean at a temperature of about 90°F. Hundreds of manatees can be seen in waters surrounding large power plants on particularly cool days.

Are they at risk?

This behavioral pattern is completely normal for manatees, and they move towards warmth whenever Florida’s water gets too cold. However, large numbers of these creatures in small waterways can be a recipe for disaster. It is our responsibility to contribute to the protection of manatees in these months where they are at an increased risk of danger. Though no longer on the endangered species list, manatees are still classified as a “threatened” animal and should be actively protected. Currently, there are about 6,100 manatees in Florida, but experts believe that this number may once again decrease in future years due to lack of warm water refuges. Power plants will retire and human groundwater removal activity will continue to damage natural springs. In the future, manatees may no longer have as many available locations to stay warm during the winter. It is important to keep canals and ports safe for manatees, so they do not grow dependent on structures like power plants.

What can be done to help?

As the manatees migrate to warmer water, it is especially important to follow watercraft rules and speed limits in designated manatee zones. Many of these zones will be marked by signs instructing boaters to proceed slowly through the area. Around 20% of manatee deaths in Florida are from boating accidents, and this can easily be avoided by awareness of manatee migration patterns. Also, manatees should not be disturbed when they are huddling in shallow water, as this can cause them to move back out into colder conditions.

Manatee Viewing Locations:

In celebration of Manatee Awareness Month, take a day to go view the beautiful animals with your friends and family! Refrain from feeding the marine life or scaring manatees away from these safe locations with large amounts of activity. Some top “manatee spotting zones” in the south Florida region include:

TECO Manatee Viewing Center, Apollo Beach, Tampa
Florida Power and Light Eco-Discovery Center, West Palm Beach
Lee County Manatee Park, Fort Myers
Manatee Observation and Educational Center, Fort Pierce

Be sure to leave a comment sharing your own favorite viewing locations in spirit of Manatee Awareness Month, and join Seventh Generation Solutions in promoting safe boating practices this holiday season!

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