LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- According to recent Florida Fish and Wildlife numbers, Manatee Deaths are the highest they’ve been in 6 years. Florida boaters killed a record number of manatees in 2018 and the state reported a near-record of manatee deaths overall.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recorded 119 manatees killed by a boat strike last year, breaking the record of 106 set in 2016 and tied in 2017. Overall, 804 manatees died in Florida waters, just shy of the record 830 recorded in 2013.
“It’s very discouraging to see that, it’s heartbreaking,” said John Cookman, the Captain for Manatee & Eco River Tours in Lee County.
“They have no natural predators, so other than just natural causes, it’s generally man, red tide or cold weather,” Cookman said.
He’s not wrong, red tide killed 91 manatees, 88 of those were in Lee County, but the biggest cause of death for manatees were boats. Boaters killed a record 119 manatees.
Brian Norris, the Public Information Officer for the Florida Fish and Wildlife says people who hit and kill manatees while in a manatee zone can get a citation up to $90.
“Our biggest thing is getting people to pay attention to the signs,” Norris said.
Cookman says he has a solution for to protect manatees. Propeller guards.
“They do impact performance, they do decrease fuel efficiency but they also protect the manatee,” Cookman said.
Cookman said he’s not worried about his business at the moment. His main concern is boaters.
“I doesn’t bother me to slow down, I know that some people feel inconvenienced by it, it’s the law you need to abide by it,” he said.