TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is increasing boat patrols to keep manatees safe, as 89 have been killed by watercraft-related injuries so far in 2019.
According to FWC numbers, 123 manatees were killed by watercraft in all of 2018.
Across the Tampa Bay area, 16 manatees have been killed by watercraft.
FWC confirmed in a media release Wednesday they are “increasing patrols in strategic areas of the state to enhance manatee conservation and public safety.”
ZooTampa cares for many manatees with boat strike injuries at their Manatee Critical Car Center.
“A couple things we’ll see is outward wounds, but also a lot of the damage is internal. So they’ll have collapsed lungs, bleeding internally, so there’s a number of things that boat strikes can do that are harmful to manatees,” said staff veterinarian Dr. Lauren Smith.
A representative for FWC told 8 On Your Side, “we strategically assign officers statewide depending upon what is going on during a given weekend, season, etc.”
FWC could not confirm exactly where enhanced patrols will take place, but said in the release Lee, Brevard and Volusia counties have reported higher numbers of boat strikes on manatees.
As of July 9, 324 manatees have died in Florida. Last year saw a total of 824 deaths.
Boaters can do their part in manatee conservation by following posted speed zone signs, wearing polarized sunglasses to be able to see manatees more easily and avoiding boating over seagrass beds and shallow areas.
To report an injured or distressed manatee, call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC.