Florida Maritime Task Force Cooperative
Manatee Enforcement Effort Slated for July 4th – July 6th, 2008
Tom MacKenzie, 404-679-7291, U. S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, Tom_MacKenzie@fws.gov
Morse, 863-648-3203, Fla. Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Southwest Florida Maritime Task Force units have partnered with the
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Florida Fish & Wildlife
Conservation Commission (FWC) to launch a joint enforcement effort in
federal and state manatee zones in Lee and Collier counties. The joint
enforcement effort will run from Friday, July 4th through Sunday, July
The federal manatee speed zones are published in the Federal Register.
State manatee zones can be found at www.MyFWC.com. FWS and FWC have posted
signs and buoys throughout the designated areas in the two counties to
mark the regulated zones.
Numerous marine enforcement units will participate in the enforcement
detail with the FWS, FWC and Lee and Collier County sheriff’s departments,
the U. S. Coast Guard, local police departments and National Park Service.
Manatee zone boundaries are marked by large signs and buoys; both are
white in color with international orange lettering. Federal and state
regulations require vessel operators to operate at posted speeds within
the manatee zones. Portions of the manatee zones are regulated at a maximum
speed of 25 or 30 mph and will be enforced using RADAR units.
According to the regulations, a watercraft is considered to be proceeding
at slow speed if the vessel is fully off plane, bow down and completely
settled in the water, not creating an excessive wake. However, if a watercraft
is on plane, in the process of coming up on or coming off of plane, or
creating an excess wake it is not considered to be proceeding at slow
speed. There is no mile-per-hour speed attached to slow and idle zones.
Slow speed and idle speed are based on the attitude of the vessel. Idle
Speed is considered to be enough forward momentum to maintain steerage
of a vessel.
Law enforcement officers in this joint effort will be doing strict enforcement
of manatee zones. Federal fines range from $125 to $25,000 and / or 6
months imprisonment under the endangered species act. The fines increase
for each subsequent violation of any state or federal manatee zone throughout
State data indicates manatee mortalities related to watercraft strikes
generally are high in Lee County as is the overall manatee mortality
rate. In 2007, there were 14 manatee deaths caused by watercraft strikes
and an overall total of 91 manatee deaths in Lee County.
So far this year there have been five deaths from watercraft strikes
in Lee County.
Voluntary compliance is a win-win for boaters and for Florida manatees:
providing for safe passage for both through Florida’s waterways.
The federal regulations and maps can be found at http://www.fws.gov/northflorida.
Those areas designated as protected pursuant to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary
Act may be found on FWC’s Web site at: http://MyFWC.com/manatee/data/mapref.htm.
In areas where the federal and state zones are not identical, the more
restrictive zone takes precedence. The Web page maps provide a general
overview of the areas that have manatee speed zones but are not a substitute
for on-the-water markings. When in doubt, follow the rules as posted
on the signs and delineated by the buoys.
Enforcement questions regarding the various zones may be directed to
the FWS Office of Law Enforcement at 352-429-1037 or the FWC at 850-488-4676.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible
for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants, and
their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Visit
the Service’s Web site at http://www.fws.gov.