Satellite Beach canal needs new manatee wake zone signs, neighbor says

Regulatory wake zone signs lost in 2004 hurricane

By James Sparvero - Reporter

SATELLITE BEACH, Fla. - On a sunny Friday in the shadow of the Tortoise Island Bridge, Bill Lundell is hollering at boaters he thinks are going too fast.

"Slow down! Slow down for the manatees," Lundell yelled at a speeding pontoon boat.

Lundell said since a hurricane in 2004 destroyed them, the bridge has been without manatee wake zone signs.

His friend Al Stern, who lived at the foot of the bridge before passing away last spring, also advocated for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to replace the signs.

"There are no manatee wake zones on the pylons there and they need to be put there because the manatees are coming and the cold is coming," Lundell said.

Hundreds of manatees swim to beach side canals every winter. The water in the canals is warmer than out on the Banana River.

Lundell hopes new signs and enforcement could slow down one of the worst years on record for manatee deaths.

According to FWC statistics, there were over 700 manatee deaths in Florida in 2017. FWC officials said boat strikes are always a factor but a cold winter and red tide also hurt the manatee population this year.

State wildlife officials also said a greater number of manatees in Florida, may, too be contributing to a higher number of deaths.

In addition to getting results for the sea cow, Lundell said he's calling for installment of new signs in honor of his friend who passed away.

"Al was a good man," he said. "In memory of him, I'd like to do this. To all the people who use this canal, please slow down."

In 2002, the Brevard County Commission designated the canal part of a manatee protection zone and the FWC said in those areas, there should be signs.

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