ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Florida Marine Research Institute (FMRI) reported last week that of the 380 manatees that died in state waters in 2003, only 73 manatees died due to watercraft-related injuries – the lowest watercraft-related injury rate since 1998.
This news comes only one year after deaths due to watercraft-related injuries hit record highs, with 95 manatees killed by boat-related injuries.
However, state manatee biologist Bruce Ackerman pointed out that deaths from watercraft-related injuries, while down, account for almost 3 percent of the manatee population, which would be considered a "pretty big deal" if it were humans, not manatees, dying, according to several newspaper reports.
Among the reasons for the decline could be manatee slow-speed zones and a reduction in commercial traffic, some speculated.
Ken Stead of the Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association said it also can be attributed to safe boating practices.
"We’ve got to continue to do better at educating boaters," he told the Naples Daily News.
Stead also expressed hope that the decline in boat-related deaths may help speed up the dock construction permit process.
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