Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission LogoJoint Agency/Manatee Detail News ReleaseU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Logo

Release Date: June 22, 2009
Target Publication Date: July 02, 2009

Media Contacts:
Officer Lenny Salberg, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission – (352) 427-6728
Joy Hill, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission – (352) 732-1225
Chuck Underwood, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – (904) 731-3332

Manatee Enforcement Effort slated for Brevard County

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will initiate a joint enforcement effort over the July 4th weekend to enforce the federal and state Manatee zones in Brevard County. The joint enforcement effort will run from Saturday, July 4th through Sunday, July 5th.

Along with FWS and FWC agents and officers, numerous federal, state and local marine enforcement units from the area will be participating in the enforcement detail to enforce not only the manatee protection zones but other legal requirements on the water, as well.

The federal manatee protection zones and regulations may be found online at: http://www.fws.gov/northflorida/Manatee/Documents/MPARules/index-federal-mpa-maps.htm.

Those areas designated as protected pursuant to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act may be at: http://www.myfwc.com/WILDLIFEHABITATS/Manatee_protectionzones.htm#Maps.

In those 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 throughout the designated areas in Brevard to mark the regulated zones.

Manatee zone boundaries are marked by large posted signs and buoys; both are white in color with international orange lettering.

Federal and State regulations require vessel operators to operate at the appropriate posted speeds within the manatee zones. Portions of the manatee zones are regulated at a maximum speed of 25 mph and are enforced utilizing 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 excessive 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 upon the attitude of the vessel. Idle Speed is considered to be enough forward momentum to maintain steerage of a vessel.

Law enforcement participants in this joint effort will be doing strict enforcement of the manatee zones. Federal fines range from $125 to $25,000 and/or six (6) months imprisonment under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The fines increase for each subsequent violation of any state or federal manatee zone throughout the state.

State data indicates Manatee mortalities related to watercraft strikes are generally high in Brevard County< as well as the overall mortality rate. In 2008 there were ten (10) manatee mortalities caused from watercraft strikes and an overall total of 72 manatee mortalities in Brevard County.

Voluntary compliance is a win-win for boaters and for Florida manatees: providing for safe passage for both through Florida’s waterways.

Enforcement questions regarding the various zones may be directed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement at 352-429-1037 or contact the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission at 352-732-1225.

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.

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Last modified June 22, 2009