What are Manatee Protection Rules?
Manatee protection rules are rules that are
established by FWC to restrict the speed and operation of vessels
where necessary to protect manatees from harmful collisions with
vessels and from harassment. In areas that are especially important
to manatees, the rules can prohibit or limit entry into an area as
well as restrict what activities can be performed in the area. FWC
is authorized to adopt these rules by the Manatee Sanctuary Act,
379.2431(2), Florida Statutes (FS). The rules appear in Chapter
68C-22 of the Florida Administrative Code (FAC).
here for maps of these areas
Local governments can also establish manatee
protection zones through the adoption of a local ordinance. These
zones must be approved by FWC before they can take effect, as
required by 379.2431(2)(p),FS. Local manatee protection zones
cannot include waters within the main marked channel of the Florida
Intracoastal Waterway or waters within 100 feet thereof.
The rationale for reducing vessels speeds to reduce
risks to manatees is discussed in a peer-reviewed paper FWC staff
authored in 2007: Calleson,
CS, and RK Frohlich. 2007. Slower boat speeds reduce risks to
manatees. Endangered Species Research. Vol. 3, pp. 295-304.
Ongoing and recent rule making actions
How are Manatee Protection Rules Established?
FWC's manatee protection rule making process is
described in Rule 68C-22.001, FAC. The process is started when the
FWC evaluates all available information and determines that a new
or amended rule may be warranted. (The initial step of identifying
an area to be evaluated can be undertaken internally by FWC or can
be done by someone outside of FWC by submitting a request. The
December 2007 Manatee Management Plan describes the factors FWC
considers when prioritizing areas to be reviewed.) Many different
factors are considered when the need for a rule is evaluated. The
most important factors are typically the amount and types of
manatee use and boating use in the area in light of the available
habitat and waterway characteristics (depth, visibility, width of
the waterway, etc.).
Once FWC has decided that a new or amended rule may
be needed, it must follow the rule making procedures required by
the Administrative Procedures Act (Chapter 120, FS), the Manatee
Sanctuary Act, and the Uniform Rules of Procedure related to rule
making (28-103, FAC). These statutes and rules should be consulted
for a detailed description of the process; however, the general
process is as follows:
As required by the Manatee Sanctuary Act, the first
step is to notify the affected county government that FWC is
considering new or amended zones. The county then has 60 days to
form a Local Rule Review Committee (LRRC). The purpose of the LRRC
is to review the preliminary rule proposal and submit a written
report for consideration by the FWC before the FWC Commissioners
decide the content of a formal rule proposal.
FWC publishes a Notice of Rule Development (NORD)
and mails the notice to everyone who has requested to be notified
whenever FWC considers rule making for manatee protection purposes
in the affected county. The purpose of this notice is to announce
to the public that FWC is considering the need for a new or amended
rule. Rule Development Workshops can also be held. The timing of
this notice can vary. It can occur as early as 60 days after the
county is notified (see above) to as late as a week before a Notice
of Proposed Rule is published.
The FWC submits a preliminary rule proposal and
supporting data to the LRRC. The LRRC then has 60 days to review
the proposal and submit its report to the FWC. The LRRC report may
contain recommended changes to the proposal and if the majority
opinion of the LRRC is not unanimous, the report must also contain
a minority opinion.
FWC staff then reviews the LRRC report and prepares
a written response to the report as well as a rule proposal for
consideration by the FWC Commissioners. (Staff frequently makes
changes to the proposal between the preliminary stage and this
stage, particularly if the LRRC or others recommend modifications.)
The LRRC report, staff response to the report, and the rule
proposal are then provided to the FWC Commissioners for
consideration at a public meeting. This typically occurs at one of
the regular FWC meetings that are held during the course of the
If the FWC Commissioners decide rule making is
needed, a Notice of Proposed Rule is published and mailed. Public
comments are accepted for 21 days after the notice is published or
through the date of the final public hearing, whichever is longer.
(A typical comment period is open for several months or more.) At
least one public hearing is usually held in the affected county.
Any comments the FWC receives during this phase are evaluated to
determine if any changes should be made to the proposed rule.
The final public hearing is held by the FWC
Commissioners, typically at one of the regular FWC meetings that
are held during the course of the year. At the conclusion of the
final public hearing, the FWC Commissioners decide whether to adopt
the proposed rule (with or without changes).
If changes are made, a Notice of Change is then
published and disseminated.
The final step in the rule making process is to
file the rule for adoption with Florida's Department of State.
Rules become effective 20 days after being adopted, but are not
enforceable until signs are posted on the water to notify boaters
of the regulations. If areas for which the FWC adopts regulations
are also regulated by other governments and/or for other purposes
besides manatee protection, the most restrictive regulation applies
and is what is posted.
What kind of Permits are Available to Operate a Vessel in a
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