News Releases

Manatee enforcement effort slated for Duval, Clay, St. Johns counties

News Release

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Media contact: Karen Parker (FWC), 386-758-0525;
Chuck Underwood (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service), 904-731-3332;
Lt. Anthony Wright (FWC), 904-237-5267

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement (USFWS), Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will initiate a joint enforcement effort over the May 18 to May 20 weekend in federal and state manatee zones in Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties.

Along with JSO, USFWS and FWC agents and officers, numerous federal, state and local marine units from the area will participate in the enforcement effort to not only patrol the manatee protection zones but address other legal requirements on the water, as well. 

The federal manatee protection zones and regulations may be found online at 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 found at MyFWC.com/Manatee (click on “Data & Maps”).

In those areas where the federal and state zones are not identical, the more restrictive zone takes precedence. The online 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 Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties 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.

Federal fines range from $125 for a first offense up to $25,000 and/or six 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 indicate manatee mortalities related to watercraft strikes continue to be a concern in Clay, Duval and St. Johns counties, as shown in the table below.

Florida manatee mortalities

Clay

Duval

St. Johns

2008 Watercraft

0

11

0

2008 Overall

7

14

3

2009 Watercraft

1

8

3

2009 Overall

2

14

4

2010 Watercraft

1

2

0

2010 Overall

4

9

9

2011 Watercraft

1

6

1

2011 Overall

1

15

3

2012 Watercraft through May 4

0

0

0

2012 Overall through May 4

2

5

0

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

(MyFWC.com/Research/Manatee/rescue-mortality-response/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 & Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement at 352-429-1037, or you may contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 386-758-0525.

The USFWS 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 website at www.fws.gov.



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