On Manatee Appreciation Day, ways to help the manatees

Things you can do to help the manatees

Many of us who live on Key Biscayne are fortunate to be able to observe manatees in their natural environment, in our own “backyards.”

Perhaps you’re like me: Your heart skips a beat when you see that familiar blimp-like figure glide beneath your kayak or paddleboard. Or perhaps you’re like my son, who squeals “Manatee!” in delight when one surfaces near him in the ocean, exhaling wetly and noisily, only to slip gently below the surface again.

A manatee swims in the waters of Key Biscayne in December, 2020

A manatee swims in the waters of Key Biscayne in December, 2020

I was originally going to write an article about the unusual mortality event that manatees are suffering right now, but someone beat me to it, and did an excellent job. So I will follow up on that article by sharing various ways we can support manatees.

Here are some things you can do to help:

- Report distressed, sick, injured or dead manatees at 1-888-404-3922, or use VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio. You can also download the free FWC Reporter App on your smartphone or tablet. But add the number to your phone’s contacts just in case.

- Do not feed or touch manatees, or give them water. This is illegal and teaches them to associate people and/or boats with handouts, which changes their behavior and puts them in harm’s way.

- Go slow when boating and learn how to recognize signs that manatees are in the area, like a manatee snout above the surface of the water, or circular “footprints” on the water’s surface from a manatee’s tail. Check around your boat before starting your motor. Boat collisions are a leading cause of death for manatees.

- Write to Governor DeSantis - click here - and urge him to support the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in its role as the lead coordinator of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership.

- Write to President Biden - click here - and urge him to press the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do more to aid manatees and the Indian River Lagoon.

- Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - click here -  and ask them to investigate the situation in the Indian River Lagoon and develop contingency plans to avoid future mortality events.

- Write to our elected state and U.S. officials: Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, Maria Salazar, Nicholas Duran, and Ileana Garcia. Urge them to ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to protect manatees and investigate the situation in the Indian River Lagoon.

- Watch this video - click here - from the Everglades Trust and then urge Governor DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried - click here -  to stop the toxic discharges to the coasts and send more clean water south to the Everglades. Ask that they support stronger nutrient restoration plans for ALL Florida waterways.

Help the Manatees

What, if one day, this is all we had to remember the manatees by? 

- My personal favorite: Support the Save the Manatee Club! At their website --  you can adopt a manatee, sign up for free Action Alerts, and help sick and injured manatees by contributing to their Emergency Rescue Fund.

It is my hope that by helping as described above, we here on Key Biscayne may continue to enjoy the company of manatees for generations to come.

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