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Manatees at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, FL. Photo by David Hinkel, USFWS.

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 weekend of May 22nd to enforce the federal and state Manatee zones in Brevard County.  The joint enforcement effort will run from Friday, May 22nd through Monday, May 25th.

Along with USFWS 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: 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: myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/manatee/data-and-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 County 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 minimum wake when this three part definition is met; bow down, vessel is fully settled in the water, and creating a minimum wake.

However, if a vessel 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.

The table below shows the State data on manatee mortalities related to watercraft in Brevard County; in addition it shows the overall mortality rate in Brevard County.

Florida Manatee Mortalities

Brevard County

  • 2013 Watercraft: 9
  • 2013 Overall: 244
  • 2014 Watercraft: 3
  • 2014 Overall: 86
  • 2015 Watercraft through April 24: 3
  • 2015 Overall through April 24: 3

Source: FWCC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute – Manatee Mortality Statistics

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 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 386-758-0525.

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.

Contacts

Brevard County Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Lt. Robert Jefferson, (321) 403-5866

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Karen Parker, (386) 758-0525

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Chuck Underwood, (904) 731-3332

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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