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Brevard, Volusia boaters: Manatees leaving warm-water refuges in large numbers

News Release

Friday, March 19, 2010

Media contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3426

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) cautions boaters in Brevard and Volusia counties to be on the lookout for manatees moving from warm-water refuges into feeding areas.

Manatees have started migrating northward from South Florida in the Intracoastal Waterway.  Large numbers will be traveling through Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Brevard counties during their spring migration.

At least 1,000 manatees were counted during aerial surveys of Brevard County this winter, with the highest numbers at the Florida Power and Light power plant at Port St. John and smaller aggregations in canals off the southern Banana River and the Sebastian River.

As the weather warms, large numbers of manatees are traveling to seagrass beds and other near-shore areas throughout the county's waterways, especially in the northern Indian River and the Banana River.  Many migrants from South Florida will also arrive in Brevard over the coming weeks, further increasing the local manatee population.

Boaters should slow down and strictly obey posted speed restrictions in manatee protection zones.

"The greatest danger of boat strikes to manatees occurs when high concentrations of these mammals move out of warm-water refuges and head toward feeding areas. Boaters should use extreme care as this pattern develops," said Capt. Steve Wayne, FWC law enforcement supervisor for Brevard, Osceola and Indian River counties.

All marine law enforcement task force member agencies will increase patrols and strictly enforce manatee-protection-zone speed limits to aid the animals during this period when they are most vulnerable to vessel strikes.

"To avoid striking manatees, vessel operators should wear polarized sunglasses to help them spot the creatures in the water, and watch for the large, tell-tale circular slicks on the surface of the water, which are called manatee footprints, and indicate the presence of manatees," said Capt Chris Roszkowiak, FWC law enforcement supervisor for Volusia, Orange and Seminole counties.

If you would like more information on Florida's manatees, including manatee protection zone information for each county, visit or call the FWC's regional office in Ocala at 352-732-1225.

To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

FWC Facts:
To receive a no-cost Resident Disabled Person's Hunting and Fishing License, applicants must provide proof of being totally and permanently disabled.

Learn More at AskFWC