The Gist: Boaters on Georgia’s coast should slow down and be cautious of manatees and sea turtles, as sightings are on the rise and collisions can cause serious harm to these protected species.
What Happened?: Manatees and sea turtles are becoming more active on Georgia’s coast, raising the risk of boat strikes that can injure or kill them. With both species protected by federal and state laws, boaters need to be vigilant and prepared to take evasive action.
By The Numbers:
- 78 dead or injured sea turtles found on Georgia beaches last year
- Nearly 30% of assessed turtles had injuries consistent with being hit by a boat
- Watercraft collisions caused about a quarter of manatee mortalities in Georgia since 2005
Why It Matters: Boat strikes pose a significant threat to the survival of sea turtles and manatees, particularly reproductive females. Preserving these species is crucial for maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem.
What to Do: Boaters should slow down, avoid shallow water, and heed no-wake zones to minimize the risk of collisions. If a sea turtle or manatee is struck, boaters should immediately contact the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at 800-2-SAVE-ME (800-272-8363) and will not be charged if the collision was accidental.
- Be aware that sea turtles and manatees frequent not just oceans, but also sounds, estuaries, and tidal creeks
- Wear polarized sunglasses to spot marine life below the water’s surface more easily
- Never feed or harass manatees; doing so is illegal and harmful to the animals.