Tampa Bay Estuary Program Tampa Bay Estuary Program


Coexisting with Bay Inhabitants

Show You Care About The Marine Environment

How You Can Help Save Tampa Bay

Residents and visitors alike share Tampa Bay's waters and coastal beaches with a magnificent array of birds and marine animals, including species that are threatened or endangered. Boaters should be on the lookout for these creatures and take special care to protect them and to preserve their habitats.

Always stow your trash carefully for disposal on shore, and make it a policy on your boat to pick up plastics and other marine debris encountered while underway. Carelessly discarded trash can trap and kill birds, fish, and other marine animals.

When fueling your boat, be especially careful not to "top off" your tank, allowing gas to spill over. Small toxic spills add up quickly.

Sewage from holding tanks should be discarded only at approved pump-out stations and marinas. A partial listing of pump-out facilities is provided on the Boater's Guide.

Endangered: The Florida Manatee

How You Can Help Save Tampa Bay's Manatees

  • Watch for manatees, especially in winter. Wear polarized glasses to reduce surface glare and to allow better through-water visibility. When a manatee surfaces to breathe, only the tip of its snout is visible.

  • Obey posted speed and manatee caution signs. Manatees move slowly and can rarely evade approaching boats.

  • Avoid or travel very slowly across shallow grass beds, where manatees feed and rest. Seagrasses are an important food source for these vegetarians.

  • Stow trash and properly discard monofilament fishing line. Manatees may swallow or become trapped in lines and other plastic debris that litter our waterways.

  • Obey state and federal laws that make it illegal to harass, capture, hunt, or kill a manatee. Convictions cans result in imprisonment and fines of up to $20,000.

  • To report violations, manatee injuries, or deaths, call the Florida Marine Patrol, 1-888-404-FWCC (Cellular customers *FWC or #FWC).

Sea Turtles

How You Can Help Save Tampa Bay's Sea Turtles

  • Never approach sea turtles coming ashore or disturb nesting sea turtles or hatchlings. Turtles produce many eggs, but few hatchlings survive the difficult journey back to sea.

  • Preserve nesting beaches and nearshore habitats such as seagrass beds and coral reefs.

  • Beachfront property owners should turn off exterior lights in areas where nesting takes place. Bright lights discourage nesting turtles from coming ashore and may disorient hatchlings.

  • Support public and private efforts to protect sea turtles and their habitats.

Birds of the Bay

How You Can Help Save Tampa Bay's Seabirds

  • Observe posted signs that identify breeding colonies. Don't go ashore! And don't let dogs run loose in these areas.

  • Between May and August, gulls, terns, and skimmers may nest at unmarked sites. If you discover a cloud of birds circling noisily above your picnic, you may be in a colony. Carefully pick up your belongings and leave, then watch where the birds settle. Choose a spot 100 yards away and enjoy the view.

  • If you are fishing and a bird becomes entangled in your gear, carefully remove the hook and monofilament line. Or if your simply walking along the beach, pick up any stray fishing line and dispose of it properly. Birds and other animals that ingest or become entangled in fishing line may die.

  • Report injured seabirds that require assistance. Consult the Boater's Guide resource directory for appropriate listings.

  • Stay clear of small islands that may harbor nesting colonies and of areas where flocks of feeding birds are visible. Operators of personal watercraft, wave-runners, and airboats should be aware that the noise and prop-wash from their vessels disturb wildlife and may disrupt nesting and feeding.

  • Remember: The best way to observe and enjoy these beautiful birds is by being quiet and moving slowly. A few extra minutes can pay rare dividends.

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