(FloridaToday.com) - Time to slow for the sea cows.
As the Indian River Lagoon and other state waters warm up, manatees fan out from canals into their favorite feeding spots.
So state wildlife and local law enforcement officers plan to step up patrols of seasonal go-slow zones.
Seasonal manatee zones, such as the zone near the two power plants in Port St. John, took effect April 1 and run through Nov. 15. The slow-speed zones are intended to protect manatees from collisions with boats.
When in the zones near the two power plants in Port St. John, boaters must go slow speed from April 1 to Nov. 15 and idle speed the rest of the year. In a smaller area within that zone, right next to the power plant discharge canals, boaters can't enter from Nov. 15 through March 3, when manatees are wintering there, and must go slow the rest of the year.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also urges boaters and people on personal watercrafts to slow down and watch out for manatees in springs, rivers and in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
Each spring, manatees swim out from warm-water enclaves where they winter, such as canals, power plant outflows and freshwater springs, into more open waters.
Boaters should heed signs that delineate each seasonal manatee protection zone and their boat's speed.
For information and maps of the zones, visit myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/manatee/data-and-maps.
Other tips for avoiding collisions with manatees include wearing polarized sunglasses to help spot manatees; watching for large, telltale "boils" on the water's surface that indicate the presence of manatees; and looking for manatee snouts just above the surface.
Contact Waymer at 321-242-3663 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JWayEnviro
Whom to call
Boaters and others who find sick or injured manatees should report the animal and its location to the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.
For information about Florida manatees, visit MyFWC.com/Manatee, where you can access the Boaters Guide To Living With Manatees brochure.