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Clearwater Marine Aquarium urges boaters to watch for sea life Memorial Day weekend

Boat strikes injure turtles, dolphins and manatees
Clearwater Marine Aquarium urges boaters to watch for sea life Memorial Day weekend
Posted at 10:29 PM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 23:17:19-04

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is urging boaters to be cautious and watch for sea life while on the water this Memorial Day weekend.

Boat strikes can include blunt-force trauma to animals. The injuries may lead to the loss of a limb or fin, amputation or a cracked shell.

According to the aquarium, sea turtles often get air trapped in their body cavity or carapace (shell) after a boat strike, which can lead to buoyancy or flotation problems. Sea turtles that are already suffering with buoyancy disorders or other illness and issues causing them to float are also more likely to be hit by boats.

"Boat strikes come from folks who just aren’t paying attention not always are we speeding through the water. Often, we’re in areas that are low tide areas and/or shallow water and you’re just not aware of who's beneath you," Clearwater Marine Aquarium Vice President of Zoological Care Kelly Martin said.

The animals most susceptible to boat strike injuries are the ones that come to the surface to breathe air like dolphins, manatees and sea turtles.

In 2015, the aquarium monitored a dolphin named Babyface after it suffered multiple lacerations to its peduncle swimming in the John's Pass area. The dolphin recovered from its injuries.

"The peduncle, the tail stock of the animals and it’s the powerhouse," Martin said. "It’s how these animals move through the water."

The aquarium has also cared for sea turtles that have been injured by propellers.

" If you’re not paying attention to boating lanes and channels, speeding in no wake zones and you’re just simply flying through the water, it can be unsafe not only for humans, but also for the marine life underneath you," Martin said.

The aquarium recommends the following marine life boating safety tips:

  • Designate a spotter when boating to look out for marine life and signs
  • Observe and follow all slow speed or no wake signs and zones
  • Try to stay in deep-water channels whenever possible.
  • Avoid boating over seagrass beds and shallow areas
  • Be alert and aware of sea turtle nesting times when boating near beaches
  • Wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare on the surface of the water, which will enable you to see marine animals more easily.

If you are out on the water and see an injured animal call CMA Rescue Hotline: 727-441-1790 Ext. 1.