FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) –Not only are tourists flocking to South Florida this winter, but so are manatees…lots of them.
“They’re on the move now,” explained Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officer Lex Corteguera as he pulled over a boater. “We’ve counted right now, the last aerial survey was over 900 manatees. We’ve seen dozens of them today already. “ In Palm Beach County, 800 manatees were counted.
Wildlife officers are out in force right now – making sure boaters are paying attention to manatee zones. While CBS 4’s Ted Scouten was with Officer Corteguera, the wildlife officer pulled over three boaters. “Hey captain, you’re in a no wake zone!
” he yelled to one boater while writing a warning to another. “You’re in a no wake zone…hang tight until I’m done here.” Then, Officer Corteguera finished with one boater and went to the next two. Each told the officer they had no idea they were speeding.
“Se how that boat over there is going?” Corteguera said as he pointed to a slow moving boat, “That’s as fast as you can go until you pass this sign. Make sure you keep an eye out. There’s a lot of manatees around and keep it slow.”
The problem is when you’re boating, you don’t necessarily see the manatees swimming around you. “We come out to see them right by the hot water canal,” one boater explained to CBS 4’s Ted Scouten. “Are you noticing a lot of them this year?”
Scouten asked. “I haven’t seen many at all…no,” he said.
We saw plenty – but you really have no idea how many are around you until you look from high above. From Chopper 4 we saw hundreds of them! Just like people – they headed south to escape the cold. Here’s where it gets dangerous for them – with lots of boaters here –when the two collide, the manatees lose. “What usually kills them is the blunt hit from the hull (of the boat),” explained Corteguera. “It’s like, say, hitting them or hitting us with the baseball bat in the back or in the head. “
Manatee season in South Florida goes from November 15 until March 31. The fine for speeding can range from a $90 ticket to a $250,000 fine and 6 years in federal prison. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of manatees from the live FPL camera in Riviera Beach, click here.