Both federal and state laws protect manatees in Florida. Thus, harassing, hunting, capturing or killing manatees and other marine mammals is prohibited by law.
In violation of the law, interference with a manatee’s normal behavior can result in a fine of up to $50,000, a one-year prison sentence, or both.
As part of manatee protection rules, the speed and operation of vessels are restricted as necessary to avoid collisions or harassment of these mammals.
Rather than restricting vessel operators’ activities in critical areas, the rules may limit entry into a manatee protection zone or even prohibit access altogether.
Boaters must comply with all manatee protection zone requirements. If a boater strikes a manatee accidentally, they should report the incident to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They may not be prosecuted if the vessel was operating within the speed limits at the time of the incident.
Wildlife depends on seagrass beds surrounding lagoons and bays, especially plants and animals. The manatee is a perfect example of this. Seagrass provides shelter and food to many species, including fish, crabs, seabirds, and other sea animals. As part of our ecosystem, they are affected by climate change.
The damage to seagrass beds in some areas within state waters violates Flordia law. These areas are indicated on navigation charts as light green or marked “GRS.”
Boaters must consult the charts, avoid running through seagrass beds, and stay within channel lines when navigating an unfamiliar waterway. Avoiding shortcuts through seagrass beds is also an intelligent way to prevent propeller scars from forming.