The winter season is under way and manatees are moving into the more shallow waters to escape the cold Atlantic Ocean. This means boaters in and around Sunny Isles Beach must be extra cautious and observe the posted manatee speed limit signs.
The manatees are slow-moving vegetarians who feed upon plant life located in the waters and inlets all along the shores of the Intracoastal Waterway and Biscayne Bay. These gentle giants are mammals that must come to the surface regularly for air. They tend to gather in family pods and sunbathe and socialize with their young and with other manatees, floating with only their backs out of the water.
It is this tendency to float at or just below the surface which puts the animals in danger from boaters. The color of their grey bodies blends into the water surface and makes the manatees difficult to see. A boat with a deep hull traveling at high speed, could impact a manatee with a fatal blow crushing their breastbone and collapsing their lungs. If somehow the manatee manages to escape the impact, they may still be severely cut by the propeller blades.
While there are organizations that rescue and rehabilitate injured manatees, the best approach is prevention. The best way to prevent injury to manatees is to watch for manatees and observe the speed limits when boating. Signs that say “Slow Speed Manatee Area” are posted at spots around the Intracoastal where manatees are known to congregate.
Some areas tend to attract the manatees year round, like those around Sunny Isles Beach, where most of Dumfoundling Bay is enforced with a slow speed all year. The middle of the channel between markers 53 to 49 is only posted with warnings to boaters to travel slowly from November 15th to April 30th each year. Slow means completely off plane, proceeding without a wake.
Please observe posted signs. Boaters should educate themselves and know the locations of the different zones. Practicing safe boating all year will keep both people and manatees safe from harm. For more information about manatees and the laws governing their safety, go to the Florida Wildlife Commission website at myfwc.com. To check regulations specific to Miami-Dade County go to: www.myfwc.com/media/415167/Ma natee_dadeMPZ.pdf