For Immediate Release
May 19, 1999

Contact: Tom MacKenzie
404/679-7291

MANATEE PROTECTION EFFORTS INTENSIFIED THROUGHOUT FLORIDA

3544a.jpg (10360 bytes)Efforts to protect the Florida manatee from injuries and death resulting from collisions with speeding boats will be intensified through enforcement of boating speed zones and other manatee protection regulations. In partnership with the Florida Marine Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard and other maritime law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be patrolling waterways and enforcing manatee protection regulations throughout Florida in an effort to enhance safety for both humans and manatees.

manatee injury (12043 bytes)"Collisions with watercraft are the leading human-related source of manatee mortalities, causing nearly one-fourth of all annual manatee deaths," said Sam D. Hamilton, Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Regional Director. "We've got to take action to help prevent these unnecessary deaths and injuries. Even when manatees survive a collision, some are injured so severely that they must be cared for in captivity for the rest of their lives."

The Florida manatee is an endangered species that resides in the shallow coastal water surrounding Florida. Less than 2,000 manatees remain in Florida. Most of the species' population is concentrated in 13 key counties: Duval, Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade on the east coast and Collier, Lee, Sarasota, and Citrus on the west coast. Over the last 10 years an average of 54 manatees have been killed by collisions with watercraft each year. Last year was the worst year on record for watercraft-related mortalities, with 66 manatees killed as a result of collisions with boats. While the rate of manatee deaths has been increasing at an alarming rate of 6 percent per year over the last 20 years, the rate of watercraft-related deaths has risen even higher at 7 percent. Experts believe that reversing this trend is critical to long-term manatee population survival.

Information about manatee speed zones and other protective regulations can be obtained from the Florida Marine Patrol and the Florida Inland Navigation District.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprising more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 Ecological Services field offices. The agency administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, enforces federal wildlife laws, 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 wildlife agencies.

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Release #:R99-43


1999 News Releases

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