North Florida Field Office
Date: November 6, 2002
Release #: 014-02
Chuck Underwood, 904-731-3332
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Regulations for the Florida Manatee
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is seeking public comment on proposed regulations authorizing the incidental, unintentional take of small numbers of manatees related to the following governmental activities: permitting and funding construction of watercraft access facilities; operating watercraft access facilities; regulating watercraft operations and boater behavior on the water; and operating watercraft.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act defines "take" as harassing, hunting, capturing or killing any marine mammal, or attempting to do so.
"We believe there is some good news from the proposed regulations." said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Out of the four regional manatee populations in Florida - we have determined that two are doing very well, one is doing well, and for one - the Southwest population - we need more information and we have reason to be concerned."
Today’s proposal would allow the Service to authorize the incidental take of manatees in certain areas of Florida where take can not now be authorized. The rule would allow the Service to authorize take for two of the four regional manatee populations it identifies, in Northwest Florida and the Upper St. Johns River. The rule will also allow the Service to authorize take on the Atlantic coast of Florida when actions to reduce boater-manatee interactions are implemented. However, the proposed rule would not allow the Service to authorize incidental take in Southwest Florida.. The decision to allow or not allow take is based on an analysis of the impacts of watercraft related activities on manatees and is explained in detail in the proposed rule.
The regulations would provide regulatory predictability to federal, state and local agencies, as well as the general public, who are involved with activities that may impact manatees by allowing the "take" of a small number of manatees as long as it does not harm the species overall conservation and recovery," said Hamilton. "At the same time, these proposed regulations would assist us in the conservation and recovery of the Florida manatee by allowing us to take a comprehensive look at the species in the four regional manatee populations and analyze what measures are working and what more is needed to protect the species."
The Service is seeking written comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested party concerned with this proposal and its associated Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). A list of specific information the Service is seeking can be found (see list below ) in the proposed rule, the Frequently Asked Questions, and the legal notice. In addition, the Service has scheduled six public hearings (see schedule below) throughout Florida to collect public input on the proposed rule and DEIS.
All comments on the proposed rule must be received within 60-days of the proposed regulations’ publication in the Federal Register.
Comments (COMMENT PERIOD CLOSED) may be mailed, hand delivered, faxed, or submitted electronically. Please mail or deliver comments to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Florida Field Office, Attn: MMPA Proposal, 6620 Southpoint Drive, Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 32216-0958. Comments may also be faxed to 904-232-2404. Comments submitted electronically should be attached as text files or embedded in your message. Please include your name and return mailing address in your email and indicate "MMPA Rule" or "Draft EIS" in the subject line depending on which document your comments address. Send electronic comments to: email@example.com.
A copy of the proposed regulations and finding, as well as the Draft EIS, fact sheets and Frequently Asked questions may be obtained from the address above or requested by telephone at 904/731-3332, by fax at 904/232-2404, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and are also available via the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/northflorida. (Draft documents no longer available - See final decision)
The filing of these Proposed Incidental Take Regulations and DEIS complies with part of the final provision of the settlement of the lawsuit Save the Manatee Club et. al. v Ballard.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Services manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices, 64 Fishery Resource Offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Public Hearing Schedule
All hearings will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Request for additional hearings must be received within 30-days of the proposed regulations’ Federal Register publication date.
Specific information the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking from the public includes:
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