Sharks, jellyfish and other dangerous marine life can turn a fun day on an Anna Maria Island beach into an unpleasant day at the hospital—or worse. When potentially dangerous ocean animals are spotted you’ll see a purple flag. If you see a purple flag, but the water is not closed to swimming, use extreme caution and keep a close watch for dangerous animals.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the peak season for stingrays on AMI and elsewhere along Florida’s Gulf Coast is May through October (just like sea turtle nesting season!). Especially during this time, swimmers should do what the islanders call “the stingray shuffle.” No, it’s not like the “Curly Shuffle,” a song from the ’80s, but it may just help your feet from the stinging bite of a stingray! Just shuffle your feet slowly through the sand in the shallow water to send out a series of vibrations that warn a ray to stay away.
Also, keep a lookout for the stingray’s main predator—the shark! Although rare on AMI, sharks are known to hunt for a meal in the shallow waters along the shore.
If you are boating while on AMI, here are some additional tips to make sure your time on the water is marine life-friendly:
- Follow Coast Guard-approved safe boating guidelines and be vigilant to avoid striking marine animals.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to see marine life in your path.
- Follow posted signs for slow-speed zones.
- Never feed marine wildlife.
- Stow trash and line when under way. Marine debris that accidentally blows overboard can become ingested by or entangled around marine life.
- If you observe a manatee mating field — several manatees, often in shallow waters — watch from at least 100 feet away. Coming any closer might disrupt the animals’ natural mating behavior or put people in harm’s way. Adult manatees typically weigh upwards of 1,000 pounds, and people can be seriously injured.