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North Florida Field Office

De-designation of two Federal Manatee Protection Areas Frequently Asked Questions

Q1:  Why is the Service withdrawing its designations at the Pansy Bayou and Cocoa Beach Manatee Refuges?

A1: In November 2002, the Service designated 13 manatee protection areas in Florida, including the Pansy Bayou Manatee Refuge in Sarasota County and the Cocoa Beach Manatee Refuge in Brevard County (67 FR 68450).  In designating these areas, the Service recognized that the State might provide comparable protection in some areas.

The Pansy Bayou Manatee Refuge and Cocoa Beach Manatee Refuge are two such areas. State and Federal manatee-protection regulations both called for slow, year-round vessel speed. As such the Service has decided to withdraw its refuge designation and to defer to the State’s regulations governing waterborne activities currently in effect in both of these areas (F.A.C. 68C-22.026 and 22.006, respectively). Additionally, the Service believes the State’s variance and exemption regulations will not decrease manatee protection in these particular areas.

Q2: Was the public given an opportunity to participate in this process?

A2: Yes. During a 30-day public comment period, the Service solicited comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested party concerning this rule.

Q3: Is the action a result of previous or current litigation?

A3: No.  The original designations were determined by the Service to be warranted and prudent at the time.  Because the State has subsequently implemented comparable protections in these areas, the Service believes it prudent to withdraw its Federal designations.

Q4: Will the Service make additional proposals to withdraw its designations in other areas where Federal and State overlaps exist?

A4: The Service continually reviews manatee conservation measures, will keep taking an active role in manatee protection and will exercise its right, if necessary, to designate, re-designate, or de-designate sites in the State.

Q5: The State’s regulations provide for variances and exemptions. Are their manatee refuge designations at Pansy Bayou and Cocoa Beach really comparable with the Federal manatee refuges?

A5: The State currently regulates the same two geographical areas that the Service is de-designating, and both State and Federal regulations require boats to proceed at slow speeds year round. The manner in which the State regulates manatee protection areas is not identical. Nevertheless, the Service does not believe that State or local regulatory mechanisms must be identical in language to be comparable in effect. The Service supports the efforts of the State and of local governments to properly protect manatees even if the regulatory mechanisms are not identical in language or effect.

Q6: Does the decision to withdraw these two Federal manatee refuge designations mean the Service is turning over management of Florida manatees to the State?

A6: No. The Service is the Federal agency responsible for manatee management and protection, and as such it must take an active role in regulatory activities involving the manatee.

However, the Service believes that the protection of the Florida manatee requires the active participation of Federal, State, and local government agencies. The Service is committed to continuing the protection of the manatee by working cooperatively with partners at the Federal, State, and local levels, as well as with private entities and members of the public.

Q7:  How do you define comparable measures?

A7:  Comparable measures are similar in scope and effect, thereby achieving the management objectives for that location.

Q8: How can I obtain copies of the final withdrawal rule?

A8: The withdrawal, fact sheet and a list of frequently asked questions are available online at http://www.fws.gov/northflorida. Paper copies may be requested in writing by email to manatee@fws.gov, by fax at 904-232-2404, or by regular mail to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: MPA Withdrawal Rule, 6620 Southpoint Dr., South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 32216-0958.

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Last modified July 7, 2004