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North Florida Field Office

Fact Sheet on Final Federal Designation of Manatee Protection Areas in Brevard County


Background

Manatees are a federally protected species under both the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. Currently, boat-related mortality in manatees probably poses the greatest human-caused threat to the species. Historically, collisions with watercraft are responsible for about 25 percent of all manatee deaths and about 80 percent of all human-caused mortality in manatees. Nearly 47 percent of these boat-related deaths occur in just four of the 34 counties in which manatees are found. 
Successful recovery of the manatee is greatly dependent on controlling and reducing this source of injury and mortality.

In January 2000, Save the Manatee Club and several other groups and individuals filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Administrative Procedure Act.  Four groups representing development and boating interests intervened.

A settlement agreement was reached and ratified by the U.S. District Court in January 2001. Generally, the settlement requires us to implement actions that we were in the process of doing. It established a set of target dates for completing certain tasks and clearly defined the communication requirements for all parties involved.

Issue

Among the tasks to be accomplished is the comprehensive review of current manatee protection areas throughout Florida with a goal of designating additional protection areas where warranted.

This review process, which began prior to the lawsuit, was formally announced to the public in September 2000. After getting recommendations from various agencies (Federal, State, and local), field biologists, researchers and conservationist, we compiled a list of over 145 potential sites which had been presented to us for review.  We then engaged the general public by holding six (6) workshops in December 2000, in which we solicited comments, suggestions and additional recommendations. On August 3, 2001, we submitted a proposed rule to the Federal Register. A public comment period was open for 60 days following the publication of the proposed rule. 

We held four public hearings and collected more than 3,500 public comments on the proposed rule that recommended extending Federal protection to two sites in Brevard County by December 31, 2001 and deferring Federal protection on fourteen additional sites until December 1, 2002.

Status

We have completed our review of all the recommendations, proposed rule comments, and best available biological data. On December 31, 2001, we submitted a final rule to the Federal Register. In our final rule, we have identified two refuges at Barge Canal and Sykes Creek in Brevard County, Florida where we believe Federal protection is warranted. We have proposed the establishment of 14 additional manatee protection areas based on the biological needs of the species, and plan to make a final decision on those areas by December 1, 2002.

Questions?

The final rule and environmental assessment are available and copies may be requested by writing: USFWS, Attn: Brevard MPA Rule, 6620 Southpoint Dr. S, Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 3216 or by faxing your request to 904-232-2404. or go here.

Go here for answers to our most Frequently Asked Questions.

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


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If you need special assistance please contact the Public Affairs Officer at chuck_underwood@fws.gov

Last modified March 13, 2003