Manatee FAQ: Protection

Q. Are manatees protected by state or federal law?
A. Manatees in Florida are protected by both state and federal law. They are protected by two federal laws: The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Manatees are also protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978.

Q. What is being done to help protect manatees?
The Florida Manatee Recovery Plan is coordinated by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and sets forth a list of tasks geared toward recovering manatees from their current threatened status. These tasks include: the development of site-specific boat speed zones for manatee protection, implementation of management plans, posting of regulatory speed signs, levying fines for excessive speed in designated areas, public acquisition of critical habitat, creation of sanctuaries, manatee research, and education and public awareness programs.

In October of 1989, Florida's Governor and Cabinet also directed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to work with thirteen "key" manatee counties to implement measures for reducing manatee injuries and deaths. These counties include: Duval, Volusia, Citrus, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Dade, Collier, Lee and Sarasota. Historically, most of the human-related manatee mortality has occurred in these counties. The first task of these 13 county governments, working with the state, was to develop site-specific boat speed zones for manatee protection. Their second task is to develop comprehensive manatee protection plans. Among other things, these manatee protection plans will include a boat facility siting element, manatee sighting and mortality information, identification of land acquisition projects for manatee protection, law enforcement coordination, and an education and public awareness program.

Q. When will manatees be taken off the endangered species list?
The Florida Manatee Recovery Plan was developed as a requirement of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). The recovery plan must present objective and measurable recovery criteria and site-specific management actions to minimize or remove threats to the Florida manatee. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) must, to the maximum extent practicable, incorporate into each recovery plan objective measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a determination that the species be removed from the list of endangered and threatened species. In designating these criteria, the USFWS must address the five statutory listing/recovery factors and measure whether threats to the species have been ameliorated or improved. The five listing recovery factors are:

  1. The present or threatened destruction, modification or curtailment of a species' habitat or range.

  2. Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific or educational purposes.

  3. Disease or predation.

  4. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms.

  5. Other natural or man-made factors affecting its continued existence.

Q. Does Save the Manatee Club support the use of propeller guards to help protect manatees?
A. We agree that propeller guards are a good idea to protect manatees, but only if used along with other protection measures, such as boat speed zones and habitat protection.

The use of prop guards has been suggested as a way to reduce manatee mortality for several years. But prop guards alone are not a solution. The majority of manatees killed by boats are killed by collision with the boat hull. According to statistics collected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 60 percent of manatee deaths are caused by hull impact, and 40 percent are caused by propeller wounds. Prop guards on fast-moving boats can kill or injure manatees through blunt trauma; just as a collision with the boat hull can be fatal. Also prop guards used in shallow water could dredge the bottom and damage sea grasses that manatees eat. The bottom line -- it is the speed of the vessel that kills.

If prop guards were made mandatory along with additional boat speed zones, an adequate enforcement effort, and enhanced habitat protection, they would serve a useful purpose. However, prop guards alone would not provide adequate protection.

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