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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Conservation Law Enforcement Officer Helps More Than Manatees

florida manatee cow and calf   Florida manatee cow and calf. Photo by Keith Ramos/USFWS

The manatee is one of the world’s natural treasures, and people visit Florida every year to see these imperiled animals.

As Manatee Awareness Month wraps up, let’s not forget those who protect these animals and often go far beyond manatee conservation.

Andy Berrey is a Conservation Law Enforcement Officer, or CLEO, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. His primary job is enforcing Manatee Protection Zones in Florida, which provide Endangered Species Act protections to manatees

Because the largest cause of human-related manatee mortality in Florida is watercraft collisions, his job is key to manatee conservation.

But speeding boats can be dangerous to more than manatees, and last month, it wasn’t just manatees that benefitted from his patrol in the Harbor Branch Slow Speed Zone.

CLEO Berrey, Federal Wildlife Officer Anibal Vasquez of Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, and a Coast Guard officer rescued a woman who had been knocked out of her kayak by a large and dangerous wake caused by several large vessels violating Protection Zone speed restrictions. CLEO Berrey remembers that the woman was “out of breath, fatigued and wearing an oversized life vest that was unzipped.”

The rescuers took the woman to a nearby island where her family was waiting for her. The woman said she was sure she could not have made it to the island or out of that dire situation without the lifesaving skills of these officers.

And yes, the officers also had a chat with the large vessels that were causing the problems.

CLEO Berrey says one of the best parts of his job is “seeing tangible results because of our efforts.” Not much more tangible than a life saved.

Matt Trott, External Affairs, Headquarters

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