Permits are Available to Operate a Vessel in a Protected Area

Last updated May 17, 2012

In some cases, permits are available to allow a person to operate a vessel at speeds greater than those allowed by a manatee protection rule or to enter an area where a rule prohibits or limits access. These permits, which are described in Rule 68C-22.003 of the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), are available in some areas to people engaged in the activities described below. If you are interested in requesting an authorization for any of these purposes, please contact FWC (see below) for a copy of the application and/or applicable rules and procedures.

For information please contact:

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Imperiled Species Management Section
620 S. Meridian Street (6A)
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600
Phone: (850) 922-4330

 Email: ManateeZonePermit@MyFWC.com


Commercial Fishing and/or Professional Fishing Guide Activities

Permits are available to commercial fishers, crabbers, and/or professional fishing guides within portions of Brevard, Citrus, Collier, Indian River, Lee, Manatee, Martin, St. Lucie, Sarasota, and Volusia counties. Permits are only available in areas that are specifically identified for this purpose in the individual county rules. Permits are issued only if issuance is not likely to create a serious threat to manatees and failure to issue a permit will likely result in the applicant experiencing an economic hardship. Additionally, permits are not granted in areas where there are other regulations (such as boating safety or federal resource protection zones) since the permits do not supersede any other restrictions. Permitted activities are subject to numerous conditions, some of which include:

  1. permit holders must have a copy of the permit on their vessel at all times
  2. permits do not apply on weekends or holidays
  3. except under emergency conditions, permit holders may not operate their vessel at speeds greater than 20 mph
  4. permits apply only while the permit holder is conducting commercial fishing and/or professional guiding activities.

Owners or residents of waterfront property

Property owners or residents who must pass through a No Entry or Motorboats Prohibited zone to access their property can be issued a permit to allow such access. These permits allow the resident (or guest, if authorized in advance) to access his or her property by vessel as long as the vessel is operated at no greater than Idle Speed. Authorized residents are issued a decal that must be affixed to their vessel. Residents can also be issued passes that they can give to guests in advance in the event that someone other than the resident needs water access to the property.

Vessel or Motor Manufacturers

Permits are available to allow vessel and/or motor manufacturers that need to test their products within areas where vessel speed is restricted by a manatee protection rule. Permits are issued only upon a showing of justification of need by the applicant and a finding by FWC that issuance is not likely to create a serious threat to manatees. Permits cannot be issued from zones that were established before June 1, 1990. Numerous conditions are frequently placed on the permits, some of which include:

  1. surveying of the test area before testing is begun to ensure that no manatees are present
  2. use of one or more manatee observers to look for manatees in the test area during testing
  3. prohibition of or limitations to testing during weekends or holidays
  4. monitoring of test areas for possible impacts to manatee habitat
  5. limitations on the number of vessels that may be tested at one time or on the speed at which vessels may be operated.

Boat Races

Permits can be issued within areas that are specifically identified as being eligible for this purpose in the individual county rules. Permits are issued only upon a showing of justification of need by the applicant and a finding by FWC that issuance is not likely to create a serious threat to manatees. Numerous conditions can be placed on the permits, some of which include:

  1. surveying of the race area (frequently by aerial survey) before and during all race-related activities to ensure that no manatees are present
  2. use of manatee observers at strategic points to look for manatees during all race-related activities
  3. limitations on the number of vessels that may involved

Research, Educational, Construction, Maintenance, Repair

Permits are available to allow access to No Entry or Motorboats Prohibited zones for a variety of reasons, including to perform actions that are needed for research or educational purposes, are necessary to carry out a prerequisite of permitting, are needed for habitat restoration or environmental protection, or are needed to perform construction, maintenance, or repair of an adjacent waterfront property. If a vessel speed restriction is the issue, these permits can also be issued from other manatee protection zones as well, although this is very rare. Permits are issued only upon a showing of justification of need by the applicant and a finding by FWC that issuance is not likely to create a serious threat to manatees. Numerous conditions are frequently placed on the permits, some of which include:

  1. operating vessels at no greater than Idle Speed while within No Entry or Motorboats Prohibited zones
  2. surveying of the area before performing any activities to ensure that no manatees are present
  3. use of one or more manatee observers to look for manatees during permitted activities
  4. monitoring of the area for potential impacts to manatee habitat


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