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manatee protection

ManateeEach winter they migrate to South Florida to escape the cold in the North. However, you won't find these tourists sunning themselves on Hollywood Beach.

The endangered West Indian manatees, once mistaken as mermaids by sailors, migrate to Port Everglades in November to take advantage of the warm water in the port-based Florida Power & Light (FPL) discharge canal.

protecting the port's gentle giants

PortEverglades established a safe marine habitat for migrating manatees andhas supported manatee protection legislation, including the U.S. MarineMammal Protection Act in 1972 and the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 as amended.

Port Everglades has established several programsto address manatee awareness and protection. To protect manatees, the Port's idle-speed zone is effective between November 15 and March 31, and a slow-speed zone applies in this area as well as all other waters of Port Everglades for the remainder of the year.  The U.S. Coast Guard also has a Security Zone in the area of the Port that limits vessel movement and speed. 

Other manatee protection efforts include:

  • Increased the number of manatee warning signs on the Intracoastal Waterway and Dania Cutoff Canal advising boaters of idle and slow speed zones.
  • Deepened the designated manatee lagoon in the FPL Discharge Canal to allow manatees to utilize the area at all stages of the tide.  People and boats are restricted from entering this lagoon. 
  • Funded studies providing information regarding manatee migrations and feeding habitats within sanctuary areas.
  • Established manatee protection programs that are utilized with all dredging and blasting projects. No manatees have ever been injured or killed as a result of the Port's dredging and blasting activities. 
  •  Established procedures for the Duty Harbormasters and Line Handlers on site during vessel dockings and sailings to observe the berth and waterway areas for manatees.
  • Provide fendering (similar to bumpers) on all of the Port's 26,000 linear feet of bulkheads to prevent animals from getting injured between the bulkhead and vessels. Fenders are four feet off the face of the bulkhead and spaced every 50 feet.
  • Installed manatee exclusion devices to all new stormwater outfalls to prevent animals from being trapped. 
  • Donated a satellite telemetry tagging device to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to track manatees within the Port Everglades area and the state.
  • Distribute notices each upcoming manatee season reminding pilots and tug  companies to allow additional time to dock and sail vessels. 
  • Provides access to the scientific community to conduct research relating to these mammals.
  • Port was instrumental in removing the commercial exemption from the Manatee Sanctuary Act, which resulted in equal enforcement of speed regulations for all boats (commercial and recreational) within manatee protection areas.
  • Port Everglades' Tariff states: "No vessel shall proceed at a speed which will endanger other vessels, docks, structures, or the environment.  Any official signs indicating limited speeds through portions of the waterways shall be strictly obeyed and will be enforced."  

safe dredging - the port's manatee protection plan

Periodically,Port Everglades must maintain the waters of the harbor to provide for the safe transiting of vessels.  This work is typically scheduled when after manatees have migrated north.  However, if maintenance is requiredduring manatee season, the Port utilizes its Manatee Protection Plan, which has been adopted by ports statewide and includes:

  • Port staff conducts extensive manatee training for contractors to educate them about the habits, habitats and natural history of the animals, and what to look for during harbor maintenance.
  • Special teams of trained marine observers keep daily logs of manatee sightings and monitor them to ensure their well-being during work projects.
  • Observers are placed in boats surrounding the project area to spot manatees entering the work area.
  •  Curtail activities when manatees enter the work area.

PortEverglades is working with the marine industry and federal, state and local governments, as well as the environmental community, to develop a working marina citing plan that both addresses new facilities and the protection of the manatee.

manatee facts


  • The average adult manatee is 10 feet long and weighs 1,000 lbs.They can grow up to 13 feet and weigh more than 3,000 lbs.
  • Manatees have fine-tuned senses and can differentiate colors. However, their depth perception may be limited. They hear very well and communicate audibly through a variety of squeaks and squeals.
  • Are completely herbivorous, eating 10-15 percent of their body weight in aquatic plants daily.
  • Females produce one calf every two to three years and their gestation period is about 13 months.
  • Unlike most mammals with seven cervical vertebrae, manatees have just six and must turn their whole bodies around to look behind them.
  • Have bones in their flippers similar to a human hand with three or four nails at the end of each flipper.
  • Have no "biting" teeth and are completely harmless. They have no defense mechanisms.
  • They are very sensitive to the cold and can die from sudden drops in water temperature and red tide.
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