LONGBOAT KEY - 2019 saw a rise in manatee deaths caused by boat collisions across the state. 

Boats were responsible for 137 of the manatees killed in twenty nineteen, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This is an increase in numbers compared to last year.

A boater himself, Michael Curry, sees manatees all the time off Longboat Key.

"You’ll tend to see quite a few with prop marks on their backs," Michael Curry said. "Because of them getting hit by boaters who are just unaware of them being there.”

A spokesperson for Mote Marine Laboratory, Stephannie Kettle, says boat propellers are dangerous.

"When a manatee is struck by a boat, it can cause maybe immediate death," Stephannie Kettle said. "But it could also if they have a severe enough injury, they might not be able to find food and things like that, and it’s more of a prolonged death.”

FWC has these animals classified as a protected and threatened species in Florida, it’s illegal to feed, harass, or give water to manatees.

Mote Marine Lab houses two manatees, Hugh & Buffett. They help spread the word about how you can protect manatees in the wild.

"They have been able to teach us and tell us all about manatee senses and how they perceived they’re environment," Senior Aquarium Biologist, Kat Boerner, said.

Boerner (burner) says it’s important to watch out for them as manatees tend to graze across the surface of the water.

They’re more susceptible to boat strikes.  

Curry encourages boaters to slow down on the water.

"So, it’s really just taking that extra step and being cautious when you’re in a manatee zone because they are there," Curry said. "Whether you see them or not.”

Kettle says boaters can prevent the death of manatees.   

"Always abide by slow wake zones when you’re in those areas," Kettle said. "Keep an eye out for manatees, you can have a spotter in your boat looking for manatees."

If you see a distressed manatee or wildlife in the water, Mote Marine Lab encourages you to call your local wildlife organization or FWC to report the animal. They say you should never attempt to help the animal, as it could distress them more. Trained professionals will give it the proper care it needs.