FWC gives preliminary approval to changes in Collier County manatee zones
Media contact: Diane Hirth, 850-410-5291; Carli Segelson, 772-215-9459
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at its November Commission meeting gave staff approval to publish proposed revisions to the Collier County manatee protection zones.
Final approval of the Collier County manatee zone changes will go before the Commission in 2017. Before then, a public meeting on the manatee zone amendments will be held in Collier County.
“The proposed changes allow for some relaxation in boating speed limits while continuing to protect waterways for manatee use,” said Commission Vice Chairman Liesa Priddy.
The Commission directed staff to continue work with affected stakeholders to ensure final conservation measures appropriately balance public concerns with conservation needs of manatees.
The FWC’s recommendations for changes to Collier County’s manatee zones are based on recent data collected from manatee surveys, deaths and habitat use, as well as boat use data in area waters. The changes will affect less than four percent of the county’s 51,459 acres of inshore waterways.
“We updated the older manatee zones based on improved data and lessons learned from 20 years of manatee management experience,” said Carol Knox, section leader of the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Section.
The majority of the proposed changes will result in the removal or reduction of speed zones in regulated waterways, while only a few new regulations will affect smaller areas of waterways. For example, a Slow Speed zone is proposed for Moorings Bay, which was formerly regulated as an Idle Speed zone.
Collier County was one of the 13 counties identified by the Governor and Cabinet in 1989 as key counties that needed to implement actions to help protect manatees. The statewide manatee management plan approved in 2007 also directs FWC staff to periodically review existing manatee protection zones to see if changes are needed.
Over the past year, the FWC worked with Collier County, the city of Naples, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others to determine whether updates were needed to manatee zones last amended in 1997. The public opportunities for input in 2016 included workshops on March 7 and July 14 and a Local Rule Review Committee that met seven times and made recommendations to the FWC.
Information on the existing Collier County manatee zones is available at MyFWC.com/Manatee, where you can click on Data and Maps and then on Collier County for zone descriptions or maps. The zones help reduce the risk of injuries to manatees from boats by requiring slower boat speeds in areas regularly used by manatees.
For more information on Collier County manatee protection zones, go to MyFWC.com/Manatee and click on Rulemaking or Protection Zones.
Floridians can help conserve Florida manatees by purchasing a “Save the Manatee” license plate at BuyaPlate.com.