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Alert - Manatee Protection Zone - Proposed Rule Rewrite

Marine Conservation and Environmental Issues

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Alert - Manatee Protection Zone - Proposed Rule Rewrite

Postby RudyGomez » Fri Aug 15, 2003 11:29 am

Capt. Dave Markett
SR. Vice President
Florida Guides Association
PO Box 7146
Wesley Chapel, FL 33544

Florida Guides Association is in receipt of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking re: Manatee Protection Zone rule rewrite.

While we are certainly not attorneys, we read several things from this proposed rule revision that may have troubling potential for every coastal Florida angler / boater / marine interest.

FGA strongly suggests you access and read this report through: floridaconservation.org then find the "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" that deals with: 68C-22.001, 2, 4 FAC

In the significant rewriting of this manatee protection zone authority, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Division of Endangered Species staff has proposed what appears to be major changes in rules effecting all boaters and marine interests.

Most troubling to Florida Guides Association is the inclusion of seagrass bed habitat in the same sentences and with the same protective authority as rules currently affecting manatees. It would seem that FWC DES staffers are trying to lay the groundwork to exclude most current and traditional boating activities from waters above seagrass beds, this to somehow assure protection of potential manatee supportive habitat.

From this corner, it would seem to be that FWC DES staff is assuring one destructive activity to seagrass beds at the expense of standard, traditional, customary and historic public boating use of these same public waterways.

It should be hard to argue that manatees are good for seagrass beds. Fact is, manatees are sea cows. Their average individual weight is equal to or greater than terrestrial bovines. Sea cows eat sea grass. Sea cows do not grow, husband or cultivate sea grass, they destroy it - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Manatees remove copious amounts of seagrass at the expense of thousands of other sea creatures that rely on these same seagrasses for food, cover and shelter.

We have already seen how quickly radical animal rights activist groups, operating under the false guise of manatee protection, have manipulated the federal court system to exclude thousands of acres of public waterways from traditional public uses and users. This, even when vast affected areas are not capable of floating your average sea cow. To expect the same response will not be employed when sea grass beds are given "sacred sea cow" status is foolish.

This proposed rule rewrite also changes the wording of section 68C-22.001. (2)(a) and is changed to exclude the terms "frequent and continuous" substituting the term "periodic" as these terms relate to manatees and the potential likelihood of threat to manatees associated with vessel activity (access?) and waterway characteristics (seagrass beds?). To FGA, this means if a manatee ever was there, his presence or possibility of presence becomes "periodic" and any particular specific seagrass habitat could be included.

Of additional FGA concern, in the definitions section of this proposed rule rewrite, "periodic" does not seem to be addressed or defined. That would leave the defining process of "periodic" manatee presence open to some other authority - like, maybe, a federal court or obscure judge somewhere.

Deeper in the proposal is 68C-22.002 (3). This portion deals with definition of "Motorboats prohibited zones." It states that the definition will become synonymous with the definition stated in 68D-23.103(2)(d) FAC. And, it states: "all vessels equipped with any mechanical means of propulsion are prohibited from entering the marked area unless the mechanical means of propulsion is not in use and, if possible to do so, is tilted or raised out of the water." It could be argued that a paddle or oar is a "mechanical means of propulsion" and should also be excluded.

FGA feels the allowance of electric motors should be allowed in all zones marked "Motorboat Exclusion." FGA feels there has never been a shred of evidence that an electric motor (mechanical propulsion) has ever harmed any manatee. If it could be proven that electric motors so negatively effected manatees in a particular area as to threaten them, then a prohibition could be implemented in that particular location. FGA further feels the "Motorboat Exclusion" term be changed to read "Internal Combustion Engine Exclusion."

The public will have only two opportunities to comment on this Proposed Rulemaking. Public hearings will be held at:

6:00 PM Wednesday 20 August 2003
Embassy Suites Hotel
5835 T.G. Lee Boulevard - Room: Earhart B
Orlando, FL


Final Public Hearing:
Wednesday 19 November 2003 through Friday 21 November 2003
Hawk's Cay Resort
Hawk's Cay Boulevard
Duck Key, FL

We encourage all interested parties to make their feelings known on this issue.

Capt. Dave Markett
SR. Vice President
Florida Guides Association
PO Box 7146
Wesley Chapel, FL 33544
Rudy Gomez
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