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Southwest Florida Maritime Task Force Cooperative Manatee Enforcement Effort Slated for July 4th – July 6th, 2008


July 1, 2008


Tom MacKenzie, 404-679-7291, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
Gary 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 6th.

The federal manatee speed zones are published in the Federal Register. State manatee zones can be found at 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 the state.

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 Those areas designated as protected pursuant to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act may be found on FWC’s Web site at:

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.

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