SARASOTA- Last year, Red Tide contributed to a near record number of overall Manatees killed, this year the number of Manatees killed in watercraft injuries could hit an all-time high.

 “We actually tell individuals apart by the scars they acquire from vessel strikes,” Gretchen Lovewell said. “So unfortunately it’s something that they deal with on a really regular basis.”

So far this year 81 Manatees have been killed by watercrafts, according to FWC that’s up from 59 deaths in the same time period last year.

“Which is really alarming especially on the heels of last year when we had huge numbers of animals dying from red tide in addition to last year set a record for vessel mortalities as well,” Lovewell said. “So this is not a trend we like to see continue on the rise.”

Mote Marine Lab Stranding’s Investigations Program Manager Gretchen Lovewell says boat strikes are especially dangerous for Manatees.

“Because of the way Manatees are built, their lungs lay across their back as well as their kidneys,” Lovewell said. “So when they suffer those boat strikes a lot of times they will hit the lung or the kidney and that’s pretty much cause of death.”

Boaters on the water can take simple steps to help keep Manatees safe.

“Obey those slow speed signs, slow speed zones,” Lovewell said. “They are put there for a reason, they are put their based on Manatee habitat, the other little things you can do is wear polarized sunglasses, they are amazing at helping you see animals through the water.”

And if you do accidentally hit a Manatee be sure to report it.

“You’re not going to get in trouble,” Lovewell said. “But not only can we stand a better chance of helping that animal, but also it helps us better learn how the animals are interacting with the boats, if we know what happened, the size of the boat the size of the engine.

You can contact Mote’s 24-hour stranding’s investigations program at 941-988-0212.