January 24, 2003
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will take a number of additional steps to protect the Florida manatee, including proposing three new manatee protection areas and establishing specific time lines for putting up signs to alert boaters that they are entering manatee protection areas, under the terms of an agreement filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today.
"We expect these measures to help reduce the high rate of manatee deaths from collisions with boats," said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "But, the success of our efforts, including the numerous actions to protect manatees that we have taken in the past, depend on responsible boater behavior. We ask that boaters comply with all posted speed zones."
To complement the terms of the agreement, the Service plans to significantly increase the presence of Federal law enforcement officers on the water to ensure boater compliance with speed zones and conduct formal consultations for proposed watercraft-related activities that may affect manatees. In addition, the National Park Service will strengthen manatee protection efforts within national parks throughout Florida.
The agreement includes the following commitments:
In addition, the agreement refers to three recently signed internal memorandums that will enhance the Service's efforts (and those of the National Park Service) to protect manatees.
"Our goal is that these further measures will decrease manatee mortality, especially in parts of Southwest Florida. If we are able to see improvement as a result of these measures, then we can expect to have greater flexibility in how we approach watercraft access projects in the future," said Hamilton. "We continue to believe that the Florida manatee can co-exist with boaters."
The Service is committed to working in good faith with all parties in the lawsuit, the State of Florida, and the public to ensure the continued protection and recovery of the endangered Florida manatee, as required by Federal law. The Service will seek public input throughout the process of designating additional manatee protection areas to address the concerns and questions of the public.
A copy of the final agreement and the associated memorandums are available online at: http://northflorida.fws.gov.
NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at http://southeast.fws.gov. Our national home page is at: http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/.
Atlanta, GA 30345