What should you do if you see a manatee in Lowcountry waters?
“Nothing,” Joe Staton, a biology professor with University of South Carolina, Beaufort, said. “If you see a manatee, you should just leave it alone. Most of the time they are used to humans, but you don’t want to encourage the behavior because that is dangerous for them.”
Staton said that you should never try to feed or water a manatee. Feeding and watering manatees will encourage them to frequent populated places like marinas and landings, which puts them at risk of getting hit by boaters.
Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, feeding and watering manatees is punishable by fines of up to $100,000 or jail time.
Habitat destruction and run-ins with boats and ships are the main causes of death for manatees.
They are listed as endangered and, according to Staton, the best way to protect the species is to just leave them be.