Boats speeding through manatee zone are a not uncommon occurrence. Unfortunately, it’s also a major threat to endangered manatees, as noted on my “The WildLife” radio show on December 6, 2010 when Craig Pittman, author of MANATEE INSANITY, talked about threats to these gangly creatures. These gentle giants of tropical waters have a number of things going against them. First, they reproduce slowly, meaning it’s takes a long time and is difficult to replace any killed. Also, they move slowly, which is a fatal drawback in a maritime environment with a lot of fast, hard boats. Worse, they like to loll about in the exact places where people also like to live and moor their vessels — meaning conflict is common.

In his “The WildLife” interview, Pittman noted that necropsies on manatees killed by boats show that, rather than being killed by the propeller (which leaves a zipper-type injury), the animals were killed by blunt force trauma–which proves the sea cows were trying to get out of the way when they were hit. That’s why there’s such a big push to slow boaters down–to protect manatees and give them a chance. In 2009, a record 97 manatees were killed in such collisions. In 2010, that number was a bit lower, 83.

Yesterday (February 2, 2011), a Florida man was sentenced Wednesday to a year of probation, a $600 fine and forfeiture of his boat for (in July 2010) speeding through a manatee zone, then striking and killing a manatee that was nursing a calf. This is the first federal criminal prosecution in Florida for striking and killing a manatee with a boat. It is also just the second time in almost 40 years that someone has been successfully prosecuted for killing a manatee. For more information, click here.