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More patrols expected on the Caloosahatchee as protection for manatees ramps up

Posted at 6:14 AM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 06:33:01-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission will be having extra patrols on the Caloosahatchee River.

It has to do with the rising death rates of manatees and their vulnerability to boats and one Cape Coral man has noticed a certain trend among boats.

On the waters of the Caloosahatchee boats of all shapes and sizes can be seen. But some of those are traveling a little faster than others.

“I can’t believe the amount of boats that aren’t following the rules.”

Darin Porter has been living in Cape Coral for 22 years. He says he’s noticed a recent trend of boats disobeying the signage for manatee zones.

"A lot of people are in a hurry or uneducated- they don’t know the rules," says Porter. "So they don’t follow them.”

The FWC has a monthly report to show just how many manatees die throughout Florida. Last month, a total of 60 manatees died- 5 of which were from watercraft.

“There’s a boat right there, just ahead of the manatee zone that took off and he’s gone," said Porter, pointing to a boat on the water. "A lot of people just want to take a short cut and they’re in a hurry. I understand you want to get home after a long day out on the water but just a few minutes could save a few manatees.”

There are rules for when you come across a manatee zone. The first — slowing down and avoiding creating a wake. Also, avoid boating in shallow areas these areas are where manatees like to eat seagrass.

You can also look for large circles on the water. These are known as ‘manatee footprints.’ If you see these, it means a manatee is down below.

“A jet ski traveling at 50 mph hits the head of a manatee as its coming up for air- I don’t think it’s going to go so well for the manatee,” Porter said.

The FWC has said they will be sending out more boats for patrols. As for potential, more long-term solutions…

“Maybe a little more enforcement might change the attitude that people operate their watercraft here locally," says Porter. "I’m not sure what the answer is.”

And slowing down in those no-wake zones.

You can always report an injured or distressed manatee by calling the FWC hotline at (888) 404-FWCC. You can also find more information, such as helpful tips and guidelines, online right here.