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North Florida Field Office

Fact Sheet on Notice of Request for input on additional manatee protection measures


Background

The West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) is Federally protected under both the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended (MMPA) (16 U.S.C. 1361-1407).

Between September 2000 and January 2002, the Service took several actions related to manatee protection, conservation and recovery including: publishing an Advance Notice of Rulemaking soliciting input and information related to protection areas for the Florida manatee; holding a series of public workshops to give stakeholders additional opportunities to participate in the rulemaking process; publishing a draft proposal to designate 16 Federal manatee protection areas throughout peninsular Florida; and publishing a final rule designating two Federal manatee protection areas in Brevard County, Florida and tabling our final decision on the remaining 14 proposed areas until December 2002.

In July 2002, the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. ruled the Service had violated the terms of the Save the Manatee Club et al v Ballard lawsuit settlement, and directed the Service to finalize its decision by November 1, 2002: one month earlier than previously planned. In September 2002, the Service exercised its ESA emergency designation authority by designating seven sites in Florida as Federal manatee protection areas.

On November 1, 2002, the Service forwarded to the Federal Register its final regulations designating 13 sites in eight Florida counties as Federal manatee protection zones.

This new request for information and data is not a condition of or a result of the Settlement agreement.

Issue

The designation of manatee protection areas is just one of many tools available to us to protect manatees and further manatee recovery to meet our responsibilities under the ESA and MMPA.

During the past few months numerous State and local agencies have taken actions to further the protection and recovery of the manatee. Additionally, the Service anticipates new scientific information related to manatee recovery will be forthcoming over the next several months. Both of these developments may provide us and our Manatee Recovery Team with substantial data from which a long-term conservation plan may be developed and implemented to further recovery of the species.

Status

Through this Notice, the Service is seeking information or suggestions that would help us identify how we can effectively increase boater education and outreach; where and when this education and outreach should be directed; factors that should or should not be considered to improve our boating facility site reviews; additional protection areas; locations that would be appropriate for increased law enforcement efforts; locations where the existing speed zone signage can be improved; and other activities that we should undertake, modify, or cease to protect the manatee in Florida.

We will work with our Manatee Recovery Team (Recovery Team) and our Habitat Working Group (HWG) to identify additional manatee conservation activities to protect manatees and enhance their recovery.

The Service and Manatee Recovery Team will consider the public comments and suggestions obtained through this Notice. We will also consider the recovery needs of the species identified in the final recovery plan, assessment of the habitat recovery criteria developed by the Habitat Working Group (HWG), the final determinations by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) and us in establishing additional protection areas, the FWCCs Caloosahatchee River study, the species status reviews conducted by both the FWCC and us, and the most up-to-date manatee population model outputs.

Questions?

Public meetings may be scheduled, if requested within 90-days of the Notices publication. Public comments, suggestions and recommendations must be received within 90-days of the Notice's publication in the Federal Register.

The Notice and its associated Frequently Asked Questions, press release and this Fact Sheet are available at our web site: http://www.fws.gov/northflorida. Paper copies may be requested by writing to USFWS, Attn: MPA Notice, 6620 Southpoint Dr. S, Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 32216, by fax at 904-232-2404 or by e-mail at manatee@fws.gov.

If you have specific questions or need special assistance, please contact our Jacksonville Field Office at 904-232-2580, ext. 109.


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Last modified November 1, 2002