Caring For Our Special Wildlife

The land and water in and surrounding our Port is home to a variety of “imperiled” species (includes species designated as endangered, threatened and of concern) that need special care to survive in tandem with a growing human population. Look for them when you visit and help us protect them by causing minimal disturbance to their lives.

• ​ ​ Right Whales
• ​ ​ Manatees
• ​ ​ Turtles and Tortoises
• ​ ​ Birds



Please be aware of the threat of entanglement to birds, manatees, dolphins and sea turtles posed by fishing line left in the environment. Discard unwanted line in the collection bins placed at all of the Port’s boat ramps and fishing piers.

Right Whales

North Atlantic Right Whales are among the rarest mammals in the world, with fewer than 400 alive today. Between December and March, the whales travel annually to the coastal waters from 31 degrees 15’ N (Altamaha Sound, GA) to 28 degrees 00’ N (just north of Sebastian Inlet, FL) to bear their young. This is their only known calving ground. 


Right whales have black skin with rough patches on their heads that appear white because of whale lice, plus a distinctive “V” shaped spout or blow when seen from front or back. They have no dorsal fin, their flippers are short and broad and their tail flukes are deeply notched with smooth trailing ridges. Adults are 45 to 55 feet long. Calves are 15 to 20 feet long and usually are by their mothers. 

Protection Measures

This species spends much time close to the water surface, making it vulnerable to collisions with ships. The Port Authority provides annual support to the Marine Resources Council of East Central Florida for organization of a network of trained volunteers to report local whale sightings. Approaching vessels then are notified of right whales sighted in their area.

Port Canaveral obeys other federal conservation laws to ensure right whales' survival such as:
Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule and the Right Whale 500-yard Approach Rule.


Be vigilant and use the slowest safe speed during nighttime and other periods of reduced visibility. If you sight a right whale, treat it as you would another ship and take measures to avoid collision. Do not expect the right whale to get out of your way. Please identify the whale’s location by buoys or latitude and longitude, identify the direction of the whale’s travel and notify other ships in the area and the Florida Marine Patrol at 1-888-404-FWCC.


The manatee, one of Florida’s best known imperiled species, use our waters for playing, resting, feeding, mating and travel between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon. Due to their slow and docile nature, manatees are at significant risk of being injured or killed by boats. 


The West Indian Manatee is a gray-brown aquatic mammal with a seal-like body, which tapers to a flat paddle-shaped tail. It has two small forelimbs. The head and face have thick, wrinkled skin with stiff whiskers on the upper lip. Manatees are nine to 13 feet long and weight between 1,000 and 3,000 pounds. They spend most of their time feeding and resting and usually surface every few minutes to breathe.

Protection Measures

The Port’s manatee protection program includes:

• ​ ​ State-of-the-art acoustic sensor system in the Canaveral Lock to prevent manatees being caught in the closing gates.
• ​ ​ Fenders at piers and bulkheads that give manatees room to maneuver while vessels are being docked.
• ​ ​ Designation of all harbor waters as a “Slow Speed Zone.”
• ​ ​ Storm water outfall grates that prevent manatees from getting trapped in discharge pipes.
• ​ ​ Posting of manatee observers during dredging and in-water construction.


It is illegal to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, annoy or molest manatees. Please observe all manatee speed zones and caution areas. To report manatee deaths, injuries or sightings of radio-tagged manatee, call the Florida Marine Patrol at 1-888-404-FWCC.

Manatee Fun Facts

• ​ ​ The manatee’s closest relatives are the elephant and hyrax (a small, gopher-sized mammal)\
• ​ ​ The oldest living manatee is at least 63 years old

Turtles and Tortoises


The protected gopher tortoise is the only North American tortoise east of Texas. A significant population lives in the dune fringe along the Jetty Park beach. During construction projects at Jetty Park, special care is taken to avoid burrows and relocate the tortoises themselves to minimize stress.

The waters off the coast of Port Canaveral are home to Loggerhead, Leatherback, Green, Hawksbill and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. They are present year round but congregate near the coast in large numbers in spring and summer. 

Protection Measures

To survive, night-born sea-turtle babies must head for the sea. Instinct leads them toward areas of bright light, such as the moonlit surf or, unfortunately, man-made lighting. Our Exterior Light Management Plan mandates limited pole heights, light shielding measures and special lighting in sensitive areas.


Turtles must surface to breathe, making them vulnerable to collisions with vessels. Please keep a careful watch for their presence. Report dead or injured sea turtles to the Florida Marine Patrol at 1-888-404-FWCC. 


The area around Port Canaveral is also home to a number of threatened and endangered bird species, including: least terns, brown pelicans, woodstorks, black-necked stilts, black skimmers, ospreys, scrub jays and roseate spoonbills. The Canaveral Port Authority has created and enhanced mangrove wetlands to increase shorebird habitat and posts and closes areas in which imperiled birds are nesting.

 Both Jetty Park and Port’s End Park are listed as stops on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Other bird species that can be seen at these locations include: ruddy turnstones, spotted sandpipers, double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, and snowy egrets.