Boat strikes continue to rise for marine life in South Florida, wildlife experts say

KEY LARGO, Fla. – On Wednesday, a manatee named “Garlic Knot” was released back into the wild in Key Largo. The mammal was rehabilitated after being severely injured when it was struck by a boat.

Wildlife experts say boat strikes are a growing problem for marine life in South Florida.

Bette Zirkelbach with Turtle Hospital in Marathon told Local 10 that her facility has treated five sea turtles with boat strike injuries in the last month alone.

One of the most recent cases was a loggerhead found by members of the U.S. Coast Guard off Duck Key on Sunday. The animal’s injuries were so severe, it had to be euthanized.

Another incident happened earlier in the month when a female loggerhead was rescued by Florida Fish and Wildlife Officers near Pumpkin Key.

“It looks like she’s had a number of boat strikes, sadly, but the most concerning one is this recent one to her head - and it does go right to her skull.” Zirkelbach said.

CT scans show the gash was so deep, it cut into the brain cavity.

“A sea turtle’s brain is only the size of my thumb and it has a very protective bone cavity around it, and that has been breached by the prop,” she said. “Sadly, in  the past 3 years, I’ve seen more boat strike injuries with our marine life than ever.

Zirkelbach said there are more boats on the water in the Keys and many with more powerful motors.

The sea turtle, named “Pumpkin” by FWC officers, is now receiving wound care and constant rehabilitation and is appearing to make a slow recovery.

Zirkelbach urges boaters to be aware of their surroundings and obey posted speed limits and no wake zones on the water.

About the Author:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.