News Releases

FWC protects Broward manatees with new rule

News Release

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Media contact: Diane Hirth, 850-410-5291

(Back to Commission meeting news)

Manatees that travel the Intracoastal and other waterways in Broward County will receive additional protection under an updated rule passed Wednesday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Manatees are aquatic vegetarian mammals that can grow to 1,200 pounds or more and are protected in Florida as a federally endangered species. During the winter, manatees' vulnerability to the cold causes them to migrate or otherwise seek out warmer waters, which are often provided by power plant discharges. Broward waters are an increasingly popular winter habitat for the gentle "sea cows," with as many as 927 manatees counted on a single day in recent years. The Broward County manatee protection rule was last revised in 1993.

Under the new rule, boaters in Broward County will have to slow down for manatees throughout the week, not just on weekends, from Nov. 15 through March 31, on portions of the Intracoastal Waterway in the northern part of the county. There also will be additional slow zones in a few other small areas and an expansion of the No Entry zone at the Port Everglades Power Plant discharge canal. In many areas, the manatee rule changes will not affect boaters, because there are existing year-round boating safety zones that are more restrictive.

The Commission unanimously passed all staff-recommended changes to the Broward manatee protection rule, with one exception. Commissioners did not accept the proposal placing a more restrictive manatee slow speed zone in the area of the Intracoastal Waterway from Sunrise Boulevard and Las Olas Boulevard.

The time it takes a boater to travel through the county in the Intracoastal Waterway on weekdays during the winter will increase by about 18 minutes, but it will remain essentially unchanged during other times of the year.

The FWC received public input on the proposed Broward County manatee rule through a public hearing in April in Pompano Beach, and from written comments submitted to the agency. FWC biologists worked with Broward County staff, local and state law enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff, stakeholders, municipalities and the interested public to identify and evaluate proposed changes. Under the FWC's manatee management plan, other existing manatee protection rules will be reviewed in coming years, with all rules throughout the state ultimately going through the review process.

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