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Boating and Saving Manatees Are Not Mutually Exclusive

Can boaters and manatees get along? Dr. Pat Rose from the Save The Manatee Club says yes.

December 1, 2012
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EDITOR’S NOTE: In our July/August issue, we published an article titled “Milking Manatees” that contributing editor David Seidman wrote for his “Following Seas” column. You can read the text of it here**. Dr. Pat Rose, the executive director of the **Save the Manatee Club, took exception to the column and we provided him with the space for a rebuttal here.

As an aquatic biologist and life-long boater, fisherman, and water sports enthusiast, I was honored when in 1981 I was appointed by Florida Governor Bob Graham, along with other individuals, government agencies, and companies, such as Outboard Marine Corporation, to the Save the Manatee Committee, chaired by singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett. Our mission then and now is to protect endangered manatees and their aquatic habitat for future generations.

From day one of its inception, we at Save the Manatee have recognized that the help and support of the boating community are absolutely essential to saving manatees and protecting our shared aquatic ecosystems. Because the vast majority of manatees in Florida bear the scars from being hit by watercraft (watercraft collisions are the leading known cause of manatee deaths), it was only natural that we would turn to boaters for help. And help you have!

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So when the recent “Following Seas” column in Boating Magazine callously referred to manatees as “floating speed bumps” and accused Save the Manatee of purposely refusing to protect manatees from watercraft collisions – just so we could make more money by keeping them an endangered species – I knew I had to set the record straight.

photo: © Patrick M. Rose, Save the Manatee Club

The facts are that with the help of many caring boaters, we have made great progress in protecting manatees from boat strikes, rescuing them when they are struck, and better protecting their aquatic ecosystems from the ravages of pollution and poorly planned dredging and development projects. Every protection measure we’ve won for manatees also helps to protect countless species of aquatic wildlife, as well as boaters. We shouldn’t forget that Florida has perennially led the nation in the number of human fatalities from boating accidents (from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission). For decades, we have been strong supporters of measures that not only safeguard manatees, but also safeguard boaters on Florida’s congested and dangerous waterways. As an appointed member of Florida’s Boating Advisory Council, I was personally able to work with other boating safety advocates for stronger education and training requirements having nothing to do with manatees. Additionally, I have evaluated numerous warning devices, propeller guards and thrusters that could potentially help manatees and the boating public. Additionally, Save the Manatee Club continues to offer free resources for boaters on our website at **www.savethemanatee.org/boatertips.htm** including “Boat Safely” packets, banners, signs, and decals; information about boating safety classes and how to get help for injured manatees; and where to get resource protection maps and boating and angling guides.

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Although we aren’t where we need to be just yet in further reducing manatee deaths from watercraft collisions and protecting our seagrasses and water quality, with your continued help we can get there. Let’s find even more ways to team up to make Florida’s waterways safer for both manatees and boaters. There’s so much more we can do together!

To read more about Save the Manatee Club’s work in Florida and in other countries, to find free resources, and to make a tax-deductible donation, go to www.savethemanatee.org

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