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Crist proclamation recognizes need to protect manatees


The manatees have gotten their month.

Gov. Charlie Crist has declared November 2009 to be "Manatee Awareness Month," the Save the Manatee Club said in a press release Thursday.

"Governor Crist's commitment to proclaim November as Manatee Awareness Month puts the endangered manatee in the spotlight, and highlights the threats to their long-term survival and how we can all help," said Patrick Rose, the club's executive director. "There is much we can do together to safeguard Florida's docile and defenseless manatee, like obeying posted speed zones and properly disposing of our trash when boating. Thankfully, manatees are cherished by so many, and for that we remain hopeful and optimistic."

Despite more recent gains in manatee protection measures, this year is proving to be one of the worst for manatees.

"It is likely that by year's end, the total number of manatee deaths from all causes - and the number of manatees killed by boats - will be higher than in any previous year," Rose said. "Already this year, more than 374 manatees have died from all causes, and historically, collisions with watercraft represent nearly 34 percent of all manatee deaths where a cause of death could be determined."

Another serious threat to the manatee population is the potential loss of warm-water winter habitat, such as natural springs and the outfalls of power plants, where manatees gather to keep warm during winter cold spells. Manatees cannot tolerate prolonged exposure to water temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Florida boating public can request a free "Please Slow: Manatees Below" waterproof banner, which helps to alert other boaters whenever manatees are present. Send an e-mail or call toll free (800) 432-JOIN (5646) and include contact information and the address where the sign will be posted.

Free boater awareness posters and posters discouraging harassment are also available to dive shops, marinas, businesses, visitor centers, schools and libraries interested in displaying them in areas to help educate others about manatee conservation.


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