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North Florida Field Office

Final Designation of 13 Federal Manatee Protection
Areas Frequently Asked Questions


Q1: What is a manatee sanctuary?

A1: Manatee sanctuaries are areas in which all waterborne activities are prohibited to prevent the taking (including killing, injuring or harassing) of one or more manatees. Designation of manatee sanctuaries will not eliminate waterway property owner access rights. Public and private property owners and their designees would be permitted watercraft access and allowed to maintain property and waterways when their property is located in a manatee sanctuary or refuge. Any authorized boating activity in the sanctuaries would be conducted by operating watercraft at idle speed and maintenance activities would be allowed, subject to any Federal, State or local permitting requirements.

Q2: What is a manatee refuge?

A2: Manatee refuges are areas where certain waterborne activities may be restricted or prohibited to prevent injuring or killing one or more manatees. Waterborne activities that may be restricted include, but are not limited to, swimming, diving (including skin and SCUBA diving), snorkeling, water skiing, surfing, fishing, the use of water vehicles, and dredging and filling operations. For an area designated as a manatee refuge, the regulation states which, if any, waterborne activities are prohibited, and state the applicable restrictions. Designation of manatee refuges will not eliminate waterway property owner access rights. Public and private property owners and their designees would be permitted watercraft access and allowed to maintain property and waterways when their property is located in a manatee sanctuary or refuge. Any authorized boating activity in the refuges would be conducted by operating watercraft at slow speed and maintenance activities would be allowed, subject to any Federal, State or local permitting requirements.

Q3: What is your legal authority to establish/designate manatee refuges or sanctuaries?

A3: The authority to establish protection areas for the Florida manatee is provided by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended and codified in Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 17, subpart J, and by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended and codified in Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 18. We may, by regulation, establish manatee protection areas (sanctuaries or refuges) whenever there is substantial evidence showing such establishment is necessary to prevent the taking of one or more manatees.

Q4: Where will the 13 final manatee protection areas be located, and what are the restrictions at each site?

A4: The 13 manatee protection areas we are finalizing at this time include:

Federal Manatee Sanctuaries

Citrus County

The Blue Waters Manatee Sanctuary is a seasonal manatee sanctuary, containing approximately 0.67 ha (1.66 acres), at the headwaters of the Homosassa River, adjacent to the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park, commonly referred to as the Blue Waters, in Citrus County. All waterborne activities will be prohibited in this area from November 15 through March 31.

Hillsborough County

The Big Bend Manatee Sanctuary is a manatee sanctuary, containing approximately 12.08 ha (29.85 acres), at the Tampa Electric Company’s Big Bend Electric Generating Station’s discharge canal in Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County. This closure will prohibit all waterborne activity at this site from November 15 through March 31. In addition, the Service is designating a manatee refuge in the area surrounding the sanctuary (see "Big Bend Manatee Refuge" below)

The Port Sutton Manatee Sanctuary is a seasonal manatee sanctuary, encompassing approximately 1.1 ha (2.7 acres), at the warm water discharge of the Tampa Electric Company’s Gannon Electric Generating Station in Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County. This seasonal closure will prohibit all waterborne activity at this site from November 15 through March 31, inclusive. In addition, we are designating a manatee refuge in the area surrounding the sanctuary (see "Port Sutton Manatee Refuge" below).

Pinellas County

The Bartow Electric Generating Plant Manatee Sanctuary is a seasonal manatee sanctuary, containing approximately 12.07 ha (29.82 acres), at the warm water discharge of the Bartow Electric Generating Plant in Tampa Bay, Pinellas County. This seasonal closure will prohibit all waterborne activity at this site from November 15 through March 31.

Federal Manatee Refuges

Hillsborough County

The Big Bend Manatee Refuge is a manatee refuge, encompassing approximately 89.35 ha (220.79 areas), in the waters adjacent to and south of the manatee sanctuary at the Tampa Electric Company’s Big Bend Electric Generating Station on Tampa Bay in Hillsborough County to provide watercraft ingress and egress to the lagoon and canals in North Apollo Beach. Watercraft activity within this refuge will be regulated to idle speed from November 15 through March 31.

The Port Sutton Manatee Refuge is the Port Sutton area surrounding the manatee sanctuary at the Tampa Electric Company’s Port Sutton (Gannon) Electric Generating Station, on Tampa Bay in Hillsborough County, as a manatee refuge. The refuge area includes approximately 39.2 ha (96.9 acres). Watercraft will be required to proceed at idle speed within this refuge from November 15 through March 31.

Sarasota County

The Pansy Bayou Manatee Refuge is a manatee refuge, containing approximately 47 ha (116.1 acres) in the northern Pansy Bayou area between City Island and the John Ringling Parkway Bridge on Sarasota Bay in Sarasota County, to regulate vessel traffic to slow speed year-round.

The Little Sarasota Bay Manatee Refuge is a manatee refuge, containing approximately 214.20 ha (529.40 acres), to control vessel speeds in the little Sarasota Bay area between the Blackburn Point Bridge and Intracoastal Waterway Channel Marker "40" in Sarasota County. The speed designation for this area will be slow speed, 40 km per hour (25 miles per hour) in the channel, year-round.

Charlotte County

The Lemon Bay Manatee Refuge is a manatee refuge, containing approximately 383.61 ha (948.06 acres), in Lemon Bay, Charlotte County, from the Charlotte County/Sarasota County boundary to a line approximately 1.6 km (1 mile) south of the Bay Road Bridge, for the purpose of regulating vessel speeds. Speeds will be restricted to slow speed, 40 km per hour (25 miles per hour) in the channel, year-round.

Charlotte and De Soto counties

The Peace River Manatee Refuge is a manatee refuge, containing 1,698.11 ha (4,196.11 acres) more or less, in the Peace River (located on the northeast corner of Charlotte Harbor) in Charlotte and De Soto Counties. This refuge will include the river and specific associated waters northeast of U.S. Highway 41. Waters within described areas will be regulated to allow watercraft to travel at a maximum speed of 40 km per hour (25 miles per hour), while other waters will be regulated to provide for slow-speed vessel operation. These regulations will be in effect year-round.

Described areas include:

(a) slow speed 300 meter (1,000 feet) shoreline buffers between the U.S. Highway 41 and I-75 bridges;

(b) slow speed outside of the marked navigation channel, 40 km per hour (25 miles per hour) in the marked channel, between the I-75 bridge and red channel marker "14";

(c) 40 km per hour (25 miles per hour), upstream of red channel marker "14";

(d) slow speed in Jim Long Lake, Hunter Creek, and Deep Creek; and

(e) slow speed in Shell Creek (if the U.S. Coast Guard or the State of Florida approve and designate a marked channel in this area, the channel may be designated as 40 km per hour (25 miles per hour) within the channel.

Lee County

The Shell Island Manatee Refuge is a manatee refuge, containing approximately 32.60 ha (80.50 acres), for the purpose of regulating vessel speeds at slow speed within the navigation channel that is located just north of Shell Island at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. This regulation will be in effect year-round.

Brevard County

The Haulover Canal Manatee Refuge is a manatee refuge, containing approximately 8.95 ha (22.11 acres), within the confines of Haulover Canal, located at the north end of Merritt Island between the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon, in Brevard County. Waters will be designated as slow speed, channel included, year-round.

The Cocoa Beach Manatee Refuge is a manatee refuge, containing approximately 23.9 ha (59.1 acres), to regulate vessel operation at slow speed year-round in the area adjacent to Municipal Park, just west of Cocoa Beach in the Banana River, in Brevard County.

Q5: Why are you designating 13 sites as manatee protection areas at this time?

A5: The Service identified the need to review existing and potential manatee protection areas prior to recent litigation and the subsequent settlement agreement. Our foremost reason for designating these sites is to reduce the take of manatees. However, doing so also ensures compliance with the Save the Manatee Club et al v. Ballard Settlement Agreement and the related Court ruling and orders.

Q6: How do these final designations differ from your original proposals?

A6: Based on comments from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) , various counties, and the public at large, we have made changes to the individual proposed manatee sanctuary and refuge designations to better coordinate with site-specific seasonal and area limits, to improve consistency with local regulations, and to improve boater safety. In our proposed and emergency rules, we described the winter season to include that period from October 1 through March 31. Upon re-evaluation, it has become apparent that the modified November 15 through March 31 period better captures the time when manatees first appear and are most abundant at these sites; this period of time is also consistent with State and local regulations. As such, we have adopted this season for consistency, to reduce confusion potentially caused by the different time frames, and at the same time, provide for adequate protection for manatees. Site-specific changes are described below, and summarized in Table 1 of the Final Rule. The total of the areas designated as manatee protection areas by this rule is 2,562.84 hectares (6,333.10 acres).

Manatee Sanctuaries

Blue Waters Manatee Sanctuary (Changes)

In order to minimize confusion with a recently adopted FWCC protection area in Blue Waters and to promote boater safety, we have revised the area of our originally designated sanctuary to conform with the FWCC’s designation. This reduction, from 1.7 hectares (ha) (4.1 acres), as originally proposed, to 0.67 ha (1.66 acres), entails removing protection from the spring boil to the northern limit of the newly described protection area and adding a shoreline buffer to the south of the re-configured northern sanctuary. These changes will not compromise manatee protection inasmuch as the public will be precluded in the areas upstream of the site through the site’s "no entry" designation. We have also changed the period of protection from October 1 through March 31 to November 15 through March 31. This conforms with the period of highest known manatee use areas on-site, is consistent with local seasonal measures, and minimizes confusion, thereby improving compliance with this measure.

Tampa Electric Company Big Bend Manatee Sanctuary (Changes)

On Sept. 20, 2002, we emergency-designated a manatee sanctuary in the Tampa Electric Company’s Big Bend power plant discharge, in the approaches to the west, and in an area to the southeast of the discharge. We also emergency-designated a manatee refuge to the south of the discharge simultaneously. These measures were designed to enhance and improve consistency with new and existing protection measures in the area. Specifically, the FWCC designated the eastern end of the discharge canal as a no entry area, the approaches as a slow speed area, and the area to the south as a caution area. The county further designated year-round idle speed zones in the canals adjacent to our manatee refuge, a year-round idle speed zone at the point where the manatee refuge enters Tampa Bay, and year-round slow speed zones to the north and south of the manatee refuge entrance.

To accommodate these measures, we have modified our seasonal no entry zone (manatee sanctuary) to include that area inside the discharge canal. We have truncated the manatee sanctuary at its western end because of the conflicting State and local regulations, which designate idle speed and slow speed measures in this area (such designations already minimize the likelihood of boat collisions with manatees using the approaches to these sites) during different times of the year. The manatee sanctuary is further truncated at the southeast corner to ensure consistency with the State’s actions; this site is occasionally used by foraging manatees and is now included in our manatee refuge designation. We have further been advised by the FWCC Division of Law Enforcement that the adoption of a Federal sign plan that is inconsistent with local measures would preclude us from posting a Federal zone in this area and that they will not issue a permit that contradicts or confuses existing measures.

These modifications have changed the area of this manatee sanctuary as originally proposed. The area of the original site included 30.8 ha (76.2 acres). Subsequent to the changes, the site now includes 12.08 ha (29.85 acres).

Port Sutton Manatee Sanctuary ( No Changes)

Bartow Electric Generating Plant Manatee Sanctuary (Changes)

Our manatee sanctuary has been reduced in size from 73.5 ha (181.5 acres), as originally proposed, to 12.07 ha (29.82 acres), and the boundaries and seasonal limits have been changed to provide consistency with local county measures. That portion of the sanctuary within the gated area of the Bartow outfall, where there is no access for manatees or the boating public, has been removed. Other areas included in our proposed rule were also dropped, in view of broader, existing Pinellas County protections in these areas, specifically, the county "combustion motor exclusion zone," in effect from November 15 through March 31. The manatee sanctuary was further focused to address harassment within the immediate area of the discharge. The boundary lines were re-drawn to promote consistency with the local ordinance and to minimize confusion to the public. Furthermore, the water bottoms are privately owned and we were advised by the property owner that they would have problems allowing us to place signs in the area if the signs did not support local ordinances, ordinances that they have strongly supported. The period of protection was changed from October 1 through March 31 to November 15 through March 31. This conforms to that period when manatees first appear in the area, periods of highest manatee use, is consistent with local seasonal measures, and minimizes confusion, thereby improving compliance with this measure.

Manatee Refuges

Tampa Electric Company Big Bend Manatee Refuge (Changes)

Our manatee refuge has been modified to include the aforementioned portion of the proposed Tampa Electric Company Big Bend Manatee Sanctuary. While the addition of this portion of the manatee sanctuary will increase the effective area of our manatee refuge, the total area of the refuge appears to be decreasing. The original acreage inadvertently included portions of uplands in the southwest corner of the refuge. The original acreage should have been 76.05 ha (187.89 acres), a decrease of 17.45 ha (or 43.11 acres) from the originally proposed and emergency designated 93.5 ha (230.9 acres). We have added the acreage from the sanctuary and subtracted the upland acreage. As such, the area of this manatee refuge is now 89.35 ha (220.79 acres). We believe this modification provides equal, if not greater, protection for manatees.

Additionally, we have been advised by the FWCC Division of Law Enforcement that the adoption of a Federal sign plan that is inconsistent with local measures would preclude us from posting a Federal zone in this area and that they will not issue a permit that contradicts or confuses existing measures. As such, we have modified this area to conform to State and local measures to promote consistency with signage and regulations and to minimize confusion to the boating public.

Port Sutton Manatee Refuge (No Changes)

Pansy Bayou Manatee Refuge (No Changes)

Little Sarasota Bay Manatee Refuge (Changes)

We have modified our original proposal, which designated this area as "slow speed, channel exempt," to require that watercraft not exceed 40 kilometers (km) per hour (25 miles per hour) in the channel so that we are consistent with more restrictive FWCC regulations in adjacent waters, to avoid confusion among boaters, and to promote boater safety. The FWCC designated sites to the north and south as "slow speed, 25 miles per hour in the channel" areas. Because this measure is more restrictive than our original "channel exempt" designation, we believe this modification will increase manatee protection at this site over our original proposal.

Lemon Bay Refuge (Changes)

The FWCC has adopted a "slow speed, 25 miles per hour in the channel" manatee protection measure at this site. As such, we have modified our original proposal which designated this area as "slow speed, channel exempt" to require that watercraft not exceed 40 km per hour (25 miles per hour) in the channel in order to be consistent with the more restrictive FWCC regulations, to avoid confusion among boaters, and to promote boater safety. We believe that this modification, which is more restrictive than our original proposal, will increase manatee protection at this site over our original proposal.

Peace River Manatee Refuge (Changes)

The FWCC has adopted manatee protection measures that overlap and conflict with our original proposal. We have modified our designation to conform to the FWCC’s manatee protection measures where we believe these changes do not reduce manatee protection. However, differences between our regulations and FWCC regulations remain.

The changes from our original proposal are as follows. We have reduced the extent of our slow speed zone between the U.S. Highway 41 and I-75 bridges to conform with the FWCC’s 300-meters (1,000-feet) shoreline buffer zones. The area between the buffer zones has been designated to require boat operators to operate watercraft at speeds not to exceed 40 km per hour (25 miles per hour). We are changing the designation upstream of red channel marker 14, in Charlotte County just south of the DeSoto County line, from slow speed channel exempt to 40 km per hour (25 miles per hour) bank to bank; and, should the U.S. Coast Guard or the State mark a navigation channel or approve a marked navigation channel in an area approximately 1.6 km (1 mile) downstream of the railroad trestles in Shell Creek, we will allow watercraft to travel up to 40 km per hour (25 miles per hour) in the channel in this area as well.

We believe our final designation, modified from our original proposal, will provide adequate protection for manatees in the Peace River. This conclusion is based on a combination of manatee carcass recovery sites and sighting locations. This designation is very similar to the plan which was originally proposed for public review by the FWCC in May 2002, and is more protective than the plan which was ultimately approved. For example, the final FWCC action provides for an additional boat travel corridor in the lower portions of the river and reduced manatee protection in portions of Hunter Creek where there is significant manatee use. At this time, we are unable to accommodate all aspects of the FWCC’s plan without reducing overall levels of manatee protection or making significant changes from our original proposal, changes that would require additional public reviews. However, we will coordinate signage and posting plans with FWCC personnel to minimize confusion to the regulated public.

We have reduced the size of the original area from 4,892.00 ha (12,088.10 acres) to 1,698.11 ha (4,196.11 acres) because of a mapping error. This error included calculating the area of uplands within the Peace River flood plain and including this area in the size calculation for total area of the manatee refuge.

Shell Island Manatee Refuge (No Changes)

Haulover Canal Manatee Refuge (Changes)

In our original proposal, we designated the canal and approaches (out to 0.8 km or 0.5 mile) as a slow speed manatee refuge. Subsequent to the proposal, the FWCC adopted manatee protection measures that overlap the approaches immediately east and west of the canal. We believe that the State measures in the approaches provide adequate protection for manatees. However, the FWCC did not include the canal proper in their rule. The canal proper, located on the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, is currently designated as a slow speed area, pursuant to an existing national wildlife refuge designation, authorized under the National Wildlife Refuge Administration Act. This Act consolidated the authorities for areas administered by us, established the National Fish and Wildlife Refuge System, and provided that all property in the system shall be administered by us for the conservation, management, and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans. We believe that our decision to protect this site through our ESA and MMPA authority increases manatee protection beyond that provided by the State and the National Wildlife Refuge designation, and improves the enforcement of the existing slow speed zones by making the legal restrictions consistent with those in other manatee protection areas (i.e., protected under the ESA and MMPA). We believe the changes will not reduce protection of manatees from the measures originally proposed.

Cocoa Beach Manatee Refuge (No Changes)

South Gandy Navigation Channel Manatee Refuge (Withdrawn)

Pinellas County adopted a regulatory zone within the South Gandy Navigation Channel that is more restrictive than ours. The county has designated the entire length of the channel as a "slow speed" area from its upper most reaches out into Tampa Bay. The measure protects manatees throughout the year from watercraft collisions in this high boat traffic area. The only exemptions to these regulations are for law enforcement officers and county officials who may exceed posted measures when conducting official business or for human safety and property concerns. There are no exemptions to these restrictions for the general public. The county has posted this area and is actively enforcing the zone. We have been advised by the county that their law enforcement officers have issued 43 citations and 82 warnings to violators since posting in March 2002. The county is also conducting a study, in conjunction with the State, to ensure the effectiveness of these conservation measures.

Our manatee refuge designation in this area, as described in the proposed and emergency rules, includes only a portion of the county’s protection area and conflicts with the county’s year-round designation. We have been advised by the FWCC Division of Law Enforcement that the adoption of a Federal sign plan that is inconsistent with local measures would preclude us from posting a Federal zone in this area and that they will not issue a permit that contradicts or confuses existing measures. Furthermore, the water bottoms are privately owned and we were advised by the property owner that they would have problems allowing us to place signs in the area if they did not support local ordinances, ordinances that they have strongly supported. Because of these issues and because the local ordinance is larger in area, is of longer duration (year-round instead of seasonal), provides the same type of protection (i.e., slow speed), does not allow exceptions, and because we believe that the area will be adequately enforced, we are withdrawing our proposal and emergency designation at this site. We will, however, continue to monitor manatee take in this area. In the event that additional conservation measures are determined to be needed in Pinellas County, we will work with the county to address these needs. If the existing conservation measures or any additional necessary conservation measures are not implemented, the Service will reconsider Federal designation again in the future.

Q7: What is "take"?

A7: "Take", as defined by the Endangered Species Act, means "to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct." "Harm" is further defined by us to include significant habitat modification or degradation that actually results in death or injury to listed species by significantly impairing behavioral patterns such as breeding, feeding or sheltering. We define "harass" as actions that create the likelihood of injury to listed species to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavior patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering.

Q8: How is "idle" speed defined in these regulated areas?

A8: "Idle" speed is defined as the minimum speed necessary to maintain watercraft steerage.

Q9: How is "slow" speed defined in these regulated areas?

A9: "Slow" speed is defined as the speed at which the watercraft proceeds fully off plane and is completely settled in the water. Since watercraft of different sizes and configurations may travel at different speeds, a specific speed is not assigned. However, a watercraft is NOT proceeding at slow speed if it is - 1) on plane, (2) in the process of coming up on or coming off of plane, or (3) is creating an excessive wake. A watercraft IS proceeding at slow speed if it is fully off plane and completely settled in the water, not plowing or creating an excessive wake. Protections areas may also carry a channel qualifier, exempt or included. In such instances this refers to the existing marked navigational channel.

Q10: Was the public given an opportunity to participate in this process?

A10: Yes. A proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on August 3, 2001. We then held a series of four (4) public hearings in September 2001 to solicit comments, suggestions and additional recommendations. During the 60 day public comment period, we received 3,500 public comments on the proposed rule.

Q11: Will these manatee protection areas affect property rights?

A11: No. For each proposed protection area, designation of manatee refuges or sanctuaries will not eliminate waterway property owner access rights. Public and private property owners and their designees would be permitted watercraft access and allowed to maintain property and waterways when their property is located in a manatee sanctuary or refuge. Any authorized boating activity would be conducted by operating watercraft at idle speed in sanctuaries and slow speed in refuges; maintenance activities would be allowed, subject to any Federal, State or local permitting requirements.

Q12: Will designation of a site as a manatee refuge or sanctuary restrict my access to Florida’s waterways?

A12: The designation of manatee protection areas is not intended to create blanket access restrictions to Florida’s waterways. However, some level of impact would be experienced in areas designated as manatee protection areas. The types of prohibited or restricted waterborne activities and schedule for such will vary from site to site and may be seasonal in nature. In all cases, designation of manatee sanctuaries and refuges will not eliminate waterway property owner access rights.

Q13: Did you consider economic and quality of life impacts on citizens when making final site selection?

A13: Yes. We consider waterway access, impact on commercial and recreational waterway uses, as well as community economic impacts in reaching final decisions.

Q14: Are you singling out watercraft as the only cause of manatee mortality?

A14: No. We acknowledge that watercraft-related mortality is not the only cause of manatee deaths. It is, however, the number one cause of human-related deaths. Designation of manatee protection areas offers us an opportunity to implement sound, effective risk-reduction management actions. Adult survival rates are one of the key criteria we consider in evaluating the success of our recovery efforts, and implementation of these proposed protection areas is expected to have a significant impact on overall adult manatee survival rates.

Q15: I thought the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) was designating speed zones, refuges and sanctuaries; are you coordinating your efforts with the state agencies?

A15: This rule addresses several sites where state and local protection has been enacted, though in some cases, these sites have yet to be posted and enforced. Recognizing this overlap and our legal obligation to complete this rulemaking, we have revised our rule language to allow greater flexibility for our biologists to assess the effectiveness of non-Federal actions.

Several of the sites in our earlier proposed rule overlap with recent state or local actions. We first became aware of this overlap when the Plaintiffs in the State lawsuit made the terms of the draft settlement agreement public. Due to our inability to discuss pending legal actions with the FWCC, only the Plaintiffs were in a position to recognize the overlap and conflicts between the two settlement agreements. The Plaintiffs did not bring these conflicts to our attention. In fact we requested and received several extensions of the deadline for publishing the proposed rule, and during these extensions several options for resolving the situation were presented to the Plaintiffs. All were rejected along with our request for further extensions. As such, in order to meet our settlement obligations, we published the proposed rule.

We recognize that there may be alternative means of implementing effective protective measures at many of these sites. The Service has also modified the language in the final rule to provide greater flexibility in evaluating the adequacy of protection by the State. There also may be alternatives beyond our authority or resources to implement through our rulemaking, but may be available to State or local governments. Rather than limiting the options of State and local governments by insisting that they enact regulations identical to those we have proposed, we have participated in the State rulemaking processes to articulate our views and recommendations regarding proposed protective measures, particularly with respect to whether we considered potential protection measures to provide adequate protection. In several cases, we have made modifications to be consistent with state and local actions. We are publishing this final rule at this time because these actions are necessary to fulfill our settlement obligations and will reduce the take of manatees.

Q16: How did the settlement between the Save the Manatee Club et al. and the Fish and Wildlife Service affect this process?

A16: The Service identified the need to review existing and potential manatee protection areas prior to recent litigation and the subsequent settlement agreement. Our foremost reason for designating these sites is to reduce the take of manatees. However, doing so also meets the requirements of the Save the Manatee Club et al v. Ballard Settlement Agreement and ensures compliance with the related U. S. District Court ruling and orders.

Q17: What is the final settlement between the Save the Manatee Club and the State of Florida?

A17: Please contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for information related to the state lawsuit.

Q18: Can the Fish and Wildlife Service adequately post regulation signs and boundary signs?

A18: Yes. Appropriate signage is a critical element to the effective implementation of manatee protection areas. We will involve the FWCC, Inland Navigation Districts, local governments, and the U.S. Coast Guard, as appropriate, in the development of sign plans for these Federal manatee protection areas. The ability to adequately post and enforce designated sites was a factor in our site selection process.

Q19: How will these new manatee protection areas be enforced?

A19: Manatee protection areas are only effective to the extent that boaters comply with posted regulations. As such, enforcement is an essential component of our effort to establish additional manatee protection areas. State and local officers are authorized to enforce Federal manatee protection area regulations, just as our law enforcement officers can and do enforce State manatee protection regulations. We welcome any assistance that the State and local agencies can provide in the enforcement of these manatee protection areas, and we have made a commitment to ensure that adequate enforcement is provided for these areas. The ability to adequately post and enforce designated sites was a factor in our site selection process.

Q20: Since the State of Florida's 2001 manatee count was higher than expected, why are you proceeding with the designation of additional manatee refuges and sanctuaries?

A20: We are very pleased with recent synoptic survey counts and see these numbers as indicative of the success of many long-term conservation efforts. However, collisions with watercraft and harassment actions that impede the use of warm water areas critical to manatee survival continue to impact manatees. Whether or not the manatee population grows or declines is primarily dependent on the survival rate of adult manatees. The designation of additional Federal manatee protection areas is expected to further improve the adult survival rate and support the full recovery of the species.

Q21: Will any changes be made at the existing manatee sanctuaries in Crystal River?

A21: We are not proposing any changes to the seven Crystal River manatee sanctuaries at this time

Q22: What are the next steps in the process?

A22: The Service will develop sign plans, in coordination with Federal, State and local agencies, and will be posting these 13 sites and announcing those postings in the local newspapers. Federal protection will take effect once these signs are posted.

Q23: Is the Fish and Wildlife Service considering additional actions in other areas of the State?

A23: We are committed to continuing the protection of the manatee through a cooperative effort with our management partners at the Federal, State, and local levels, as well as efforts involving private entities and members of the public. We encourage State and local measures to improve manatee protection. Additionally, we have indicated that future actions could establish additional manatee protection areas if the need becomes apparent.

- FWS -


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