BROWARD (CBSMiami) – South Florida boaters need to slow down immediately. Manatee season starts Friday, November 15, which means more of them, are in our waterways.

Manatee season runs through March 31.  It is during this time the gentle sea cows move south to warmer waters and it is when manatee protection speed limit zones go into effect throughout the state.

Although manatees are quite large, they can be difficult to see from a boat as they often swim and rest just below the water’s surface.

To avoid hitting manatees, boaters need to keep their eyes open for manatee “footprints” or circular slicks on the surface of the water and follow all the posted speed limits. Polarized sunglasses also make it easier to spot manatees.

With colder weather, a large population of manatees are usually found in or near the Lauderdale Power Plant cooling lakes off the South Fork New River and the Port Everglades Power Plant cooling canal.

As the air and water warms after a cold snap, the manatees move into surrounding canals and Intracoastal Waterway to forage, which increases the chances of being hit by a boat.

Statewide, 124 manatees were killed by boats in 2018 with six of those deaths occurring in Broward County. Boaters should be aware that the maximum speed for boats in regulated waterways might be different from what is allowed during the warm weather months.

Boaters who see a sick, injured, or dead manatee are urged to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Alert Number at (888) 404-FWCC (3922), text *FWC or # FWC on a cell phone or email tip@myfwc.com.

There is also a free “I Spy a Manatee” mobile app which allows users to report sightings of manatees, the app provides maps of the County’s state-regulated manatee protection and boating safety zones, allowing boaters to immediately see what zone(s) they are traveling through by using the location services of the mobile device.

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