Nearly 90 manatees have already been killed by boats and other vessels in 2019 in Florida.
Watercraft-related incidents are blamed for nearly 30 percent of manatee deaths this year, according to the latest Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission mortality report. That's the highest percentage in the last five years.
Last year, 411 total manatee deaths were reported in Florida -- only 59 of which were linked to watercrafts.
Boaters are urged to observe all water laws and keep an eye out to avoid manatees. That includes obeying posted speed zone signs in areas where manatees are frequently found. Wearing polarized sunglasses can help watercraft operators see manatees more easily.
FWC officials urge boaters to stay in deep water channels when possible and avoid boating over seagrass beds and shallow areas that are more likely to have manatees. If you do see one, you should stay at least 50 feet away. Additionally, authorities warn you not to discard fishing line or hooks in the water. Those can cause manatees to become entangled.
Manatees are considered a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
If you see a dead or injured manatee, you are urged to call FWC's Wildlife Alert Toll-Free Number: 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922).
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the increased number of manatee deaths since it was originally published last week.
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