FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 21, 1997

Diana M. Hawkins or

Vicki M. Boatwright

SERVICE TO PATROL BREVARD COUNTY

MANATEE PROTECTION ZONES

Florida's speeding boaters had better beware.

In an effort to reduce the number of manatees killed or injured annually in Florida boating accidents, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in coordination with the Florida Marine Patrol, will begin patrolling Brevard County's manatee protection zones to enforce boating and recreational regulations designed to protect this large, gentle, marine mammal.

"During the first 6 months of this year, we have lost more than110 manatees in Florida. Of these deaths, 27 were due to watercraft-related injuries and many of the accidents occurred in Brevard County," said Marvin Moriarty, the Service's Acting Regional Director.

Despite the species' valiant efforts to recover from last year's red tide-related die off in Southwest Florida that killed 149, Moriarty said that Florida's manatee population continues to be plagued by losses involving collisions with watercraft that are entirely avoidable. He noted that 1996, with 60 reported losses, was the worst year on record for watercraft-related deaths.

He said that manatees continue to die in protected areas because of poor compliance with established manatee zone regulations. The zones, when properly posted and enforced, are an effective way to reduce manatee deaths associated with water craft, he said.

"The Service considers this to be the most significant and avoidable problem affecting the recovery of the manatee," Moriarty said. "We are committed to reducing these deaths and we plan to mount a serious effort to enforce manatee protection zones where water craft-related mortality continues to be a problem."

Areas targeted include the Banana River, Sykes Creek, and the Barge Canal in Brevard County, Service enforcement activities are scheduled to begin immediately, and boaters are urged to be informed of manatee zone regulations.

Information on zones and speed restrictions can be obtained from local boat ramps and marinas, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Jim Valade at (904)232-2580 ext. 118 or Vance Eaddy at (813) 370-5398), the local Florida Marine Patrol office at (407) 383-2740, or the local Florida Inland Navigation District office at (407) 627-3386.

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Release #: R97-67


1997 News Releases

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