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FWC WILL SEEK LOCAL INPUT ON FEDERAL MANATEE RULES

September 4, 2003
CONTACT: Henry Cabbage (850) 488-4676

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will seek local input regarding enforcement of new federal manatee speed zones in Duval, Volusia and Lee counties.

FWC officials plan to consult county officials and stakeholders to discuss the pros and cons of adopting the federal zones into state rules, thus empowering state and local authorities to enforce them.  Adoption of the new federal zones may enhance law enforcement and may have an impact on permitting of dock and marina construction projects.

“The federal rules are in place,” FWC law enforcement director, Col. Julie Jones said.  “But the FWC has promised it will work with affected parties to develop a plan for state involvement.  To adopt the federal zones -- which do not have the same level of public input -- without consulting local interests, would betray that promise.”

The FWC is working with stakeholders to promote a coordinated approach to new manatee protection measures.  Federal and state litigation has resulted in overlapping and contradictory court rulings and confusing manatee speed zones.

During Wednesday’s session of the FWC’s three-day meeting at Pensacola Beach, Commissioners called on parties to put an end to litigation on the issue and return to good-faith negotiations to find solutions that protect manatees and ensure boaters are not unnecessarily restricted in the process.

After meeting with local interests, FWC staff will report back to Commissioners at the Nov. 19-21 meeting at Duck Key.

In areas where authorities want the FWC to adopt the federal zones, the agency will meet with local citizen groups to hammer out details of the rules.  Once adopted as state rules by the FWC, local police and sheriffs’ departments can assist in enforcement.  In areas where the speed zones are only mandated by the federal government, only the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will enforce them.

Federal citations are more than twice as expensive as FWC citations in manatee speed zone violations, and federal officers have no procedure for issuing warnings rather than citations in relatively minor cases.

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