Boaters on Georgia coast urged to watch for sea turtles, manatees

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Georgia wildlife officials say sea turtle and manatee sightings are on the rise along the state’s coast and urge boaters to watch out to avoid hitting them.

Boat strikes are a leading cause of sea turtle strandings and manatee injuries and deaths, according to a news release from the state Department of Natural Resources.

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Boaters should be ready to slow down or steer clear of the animals and should immediately contact state wildlife officials if they do run into a sea turtle or manatee, the release says.

Manatees and all sea turtles found in Georgia are protected by federal and state laws. But authorities say boaters will not be charged for a collision if it was an accident and they were operating the boat responsibly.

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Wildlife officials said 84 dead or injured sea turtles were found last year on Georgia beaches, and 45% of those that could be assessed had injuries consistent with a boat strike.

Collisions with watercraft have caused about 28% of manatee deaths documented in Georgia since 2000.