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7 March 2001 Issue
Manatees In Trouble

from - tapster@mindspring.com 

TAKE ACTION! Help Stop Watercraft-Related Manatee Deaths and Injuries in Brevard County

FWC Public Meeting, March 7, 4:00 p.m.*
Melbourne, FL
*Meeting begins, but come as soon as you can

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) will hold a series (2 in Brevard) of public meetings to present their recommendations to change the manatee protection boat speed zones in Brevard County. The first meeting is on March 7 at 4:00 p.m. at the Brevard County Commission Chamber in Melbourne (Viera). If you canít make it at 4:00, please come as soon as you can make it. You don't have to worry about staying for the whole meeting. You can write your comments and go. All you need to do is get on record supporting stronger manatee protection boat speed zones in Brevard County or you can also make comments on specific areas in the county.

The FWCC needs to see a strong show of support at each of the upcoming meetings for the rulemaking process to continue. We desperately need EVERYONE who cares about the future survival of manatees to come to this meeting, and the next three meetings, and show support for strong, science-based and effective manatee protection. Even if you choose not to speak at the meeting, your presence will let the FWCC know that Brevard County residents demand better protection for manatees NOW. Participating in these meetings is the most significant direct action you can take to reduce watercraft-related manatee deaths and injuries in Brevard County and around Florida. We will send out additional notices, as soon as the other meeting dates are set.

Issue Summary:
Manatees are not being adequately protected (as required by law) from boat traffic in Brevard County and many other places around the State, and the threat is increasing. This prompted the legal action taken by Save the Manatee Club and a coalition of other environmental groups against the FWCC. FWCC is the state agency responsible for protecting manatees and establishing manatee zones. In trying to reach a settlement for the litigation, the FWC agreed to move forward and substantially address
boat speed zones in Brevard County first, then in other identified areas around Florida. The FWCC has only recently taken over the manatee programs and they must see the overwhelming public support for Manatees that exists, for them to continue to move forward with new protection measures. This is our best chance to make a huge difference for manatees, and what happens at the Brevard Meetings will set the stage for what will happen in other counties. Donít miss this critical opportunity to make a real substantial difference for Manatees!

Brevard County Manatee Facts:
Brevard County is the most critical county for manatees in Florida and warrants the adoption of strong science-based manatee protection boat speed zones. Brevard County is the hub of the East Coast manatee population, with both a large year round and migratory manatee population present throughout the year. Brevard County has the largest spring and winter aggregations documented in the state. In March of 1999, 790 manatees were documented in Brevard County, that's more than 1/2 of the minimum estimated East Coast manatee population (synoptic survey 1/01). Nearly all manatees on the East Coast use Brevard's waters at some time during the year.

Unfortunately, Brevard County leads all other counties in total and watercraft-related manatee deaths. Approximately 19% (775) of the all manatee mortality and 19% (184) of the watercraft-related manatee mortalities in Florida were recovered from Brevard County waters from 1974-2000. Watercraft-related mortality accounts for 33% of all mortalities recovered from Brevard County where a cause of death could be identified. The average yearly watercraft-related mortality during the ten year period from 1991 to 2000 (10.3 per year) is nearly double what it was ten years previously from 1981-1990 (5.5 per year). Many other manatees are hit and scarred so frequently by watercraft, that scientists can identify individual manatees by their scar patterns. The average identified manatee in Brevard's waters bears scars from 5 distinct boat strikes (multiple prop scars count as 1 scar feature) or marine debris entanglements. Some manatees have as many as 16 scar features.

SMC's Position:
It is the position of Save the Manatee Club that the existing manatee zones in Brevard County are horribly insufficient to protect manatees from existing boat traffic, much less the increasing levels of human activity in manatee habitat. Save the Manatee Club has prepared recommendations, based on the latest scientific data, that will give manatees the protection they need from boat traffic Brevard County. Save the Manatee Club's recommendations include expansion and strengthening the existing boat speed zones in the Banana and Indian Rivers, the Canaveral Barge Canal and Sykes Creek, new boat speed zones in Turnbull Basin, the Eau Gallie River, and Newfound Harbor, and new shoreline buffers throughout the Indian River and along causeways.

If you have any questions, want more information, or even if you need to arrange a ride or don't want to arrive alone please call me at 321-385-9060 or e-mail Sandra Clinger, SMC's East Coast Regional Coordinator at sandysmc@cfl.rr.com and she will do everything she can to help. We canít do it without you -- thanks for all your past help and support.

What You Can Do!

Attend the public meeting series, beginning on March 7th, 4:00 PM, in Brevard County Commission Chamber, Building C at the Brevard County Government Complex in Viera. You don't have to worry about staying for the whole meeting. You can write your comments and go. All you need to do is get on record supporting stronger manatee protection boat speed zones in Brevard County or you can also make comments on specific areas in Brevard County.

Wear a blue shirt, arrive early and pick up your badge identifying you as supporting manatee protection (we will meet at across the street from the Government Complex in the School Board parking lot at 3:15).

Contact SMC and reserve your seat on the bus to travel to upcoming FWCC Commission meetings on this issue.

Tell the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission representatives that the present manatee zones are not sufficient to protect manatees in Brevard County, and that they should immediately adopt comprehensive boat speed zones to protect manatees based on the scientific data to the fullest extent
of their authority.

Tell the FWCC representatives that you support the proposed recommendations to strengthen existing boat speed zones as the minimum acceptable, but they should adopt continuous slow-speed shoreline buffers throughout Brevard, and that you do not support any of the proposals to weaken the existing zones.

Ask the Commission to request budget appropriations to increase the number of on-water law enforcement officers in Brevard County to enforce these zones including functional equipment necessary to carry out their jobs.

If you absolutely cannot attend then please call, write, fax, or email Governor Bush, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Brevard Countyís legislative delegation, and your U.S. Congress members:

Governor Jeb Bush
The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL
32399-0001
Phone: (850) 488-4441
Fax: (850) 487-0801
E-mail:
jeb@myflorida.com

Mr. David K. Meehan, Chairman
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
620 S. Meridian Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600
Phone: (850) 487-3796 (FWCC Executive Director)
Fax: (850) 488-6988
E-mail: gfcmail@gfc.state.fl.us 

You can also call the Florida Senate President's Office at (850) 487-5229 and the Florida State Representative Clerk's Office at (850) 488-1157. To find out the name of your U.S. senator and representative, call 1-800-688-9889 or access the information online at: http://scorecard.lcv.org 

Upcoming Public Meetings:
The FWCC will be holding other public meetings in Florida regarding the boat speed zone rules in Brevard County. Tentative meetings are scheduled for March and April in Florida as follows:
March 29 and 30 in Tallahassee
April 30 or May 7 in Brevard County
May 23-25 in Palm Beach Gardens

Please check back at the SMC Web site periodically for more updated information or call Sandra Clinger, East Central Florida Regional Coordinator, at (321) 385-9060 for further information. You can also e-mail Sandra at sandysmc@cfl.rr.com

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