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Manatee Zones, just don't work

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Old 12-19-2006, 08:39 AM
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Thumbs down Manatee Zones, just don't work

From the local Manatee hugging newspaper this morning.

20 boat-related manatee deaths renew debate

New slow-speed-zone signs aim to clear up confusion


MERRITT ISLAND - A small sport boat cast a hefty wake as it passed underneath Bennett Causeway through a "slow speed, minimum wake" manatee zone.

The rough conditions justified the boater's pace. He must go fast enough to maintain control as he goes under the bridge.

"He's alright," Lenny Salberg, a state wildlife patrol officer said. "You've got to give him a little leeway."

Neither Salberg nor any other state official knows for sure whether zones that slow boaters save manatees.

But five years after controversial zones went in countywide, Brevard saw its worst year on record for boat-related manatee deaths -- 20 so far. And state wildlife officials say they don't know why.

The zones, they say, haven't been in place or clearly marked long enough to tell whether they're working. They hope 65 new signs going up in the Indian River Lagoon this winter will make a difference.

Boaters -- some who curse the longer, slower rides -- say this year's record number proves such zones don't work. Manatee advocates say they would work, if boaters stopped speeding through them, and zones were more strictly enforced and clearly marked.

State officials aren't sure which side is right, only that confusing signs no longer will be an excuse for boaters to speed on through.

"There's been a longstanding problem, and I think it's finally being addressed," said Pat Rose, executive director of Save the Manatee Club, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Maitland. "The zones are on paper, but they're not protecting manatees."

Frequent violations

While tickets are up to officer discretion, for most small boats, "slow speed, minimum wake" means about 5 mph, depending on conditions and the boat.

State wildlife officials gave boaters a grace period of several months after widespread zones were established about five years ago in Brevard. Some never were marked with signs.

Then hurricanes damaged signs in 2004, easing enforcement again.

In the past two years, fewer than two in 10 boaters that wildlife officers stopped for going too fast through Brevard manatee zones got a ticket, or 753 out of 4,194. The other 3,441, or 82 percent, got written or verbal warnings.

This year, officers issued 198 tickets in Brevard and 831 warnings.

Confusing signs, such as those near Bennett Causeway that alternately tell boats to resume normal speed or go slow, made officers reluctant to write tickets.

To clear up the confusion, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission took over managing manatee signs last year from the Florida Inland Navigation District.

While the navigation district used as few signs as possible to keep the waters free of obstruction, the wildlife commission wanted more signs to mark the zones. Now they'll get them.

A $250,000 project will add the 65 new signs and fix damaged ones by this coming spring. The project adds to about 500 postings the navigation district already installed to mark controversial manatee zones approved in 2001.

Eleven signs will replace buoys that warn boaters away from the power plant discharges where manatees congregate during winter.

Some will go in Satellite Beach canals, to change unofficial signs that say, "Idle speed," to the official state-approved sign, "slow speed, minimum wake."

Numbers game

Boat strikes account for about a quarter of overall manatee deaths. The same held true for Brevard this year, despite this year's record of 20, or about 24 percent of the 84 total deaths. State wildlife officials said the relatively steady rate over the past decade might be evidence the zones are working, given the rising number of boats on the water.

But boaters say the manatee population -- estimated at 3,000 to 4,000 -- also is rising, and the state lacks scientific evidence that slow zones reduce manatee deaths. They point to the previous record of 17 boat strike deaths in 2002, the first year most of the zones went in.

"I think it's proof that they have no idea if they're working," said Steven Webster, president of Citizens for Florida's Waterways, a boating advocacy group. "Boats never did, they do not, and they will not ever be an extinction threat for manatees."

Brevard averaged 10.6 manatees a year killed by boat in the five years before the new zones took effect. In the five years since they've been in, that average has risen to 12.4 killed by boat.

Too soon to tell

Most zones have only been in full swing about 2.5 years, though, given the initial grace period, hurricanes and signage problems. So it's too soon to know how effective they'll be, state wildlife officials said.

But to boaters, the higher numbers lend weight to what they've been saying for years: that larger vessels such as the tugs that haul oil barges to and from the power plants, do most of the harm, not the average sport boat.

One recent study seems to bolster their case. State researchers found that twice as many of the dead manatees found with propeller cuts had been hit by boats longer than 40 feet.

Boaters against the zones also point to research that shows manatees can't hear the low frequencies slow-moving boats create underwater. Sea cows could better hear faster-moving boats.

But manatee advocates warn that the research is in its infancy.

Save the Manatee Club's Rose doesn't buy the barge theory.

"It's just not true," he said. "A very small fraction end up being caused by barge traffic, and those are pretty darn evident. The manatees are nearly cut in half."

State wildlife officials say the onus should be on boaters to avoid manatees, not the other way around.

Mark Haworth is the kind of boater Salberg worries about most, an out-of-towner, therefore less familiar with local zones. But Haworth said he watches carefully and doesn't mind slowing for the sea cows.


Anyway, just more bu!!**** from the $MC! They KNOW that the FPL tugs and barges are the vessels that's KILLING manatees, BUT FPL is too big for the $MC to take on!

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Old 12-19-2006, 08:55 AM
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Default Re: Manatee Zones, just don't work

Confusing signs is a fact. Two years ago, we were running here in the St John's. I was in an idle zone that was at least two mile long. There was a water cop behind me all the way. He could see I was trying to obey the law. After a couple miles, I came to a sign that on the side I was looking at said "Slow Speed". When I got where I could see the other side, it said "Idle Speed", which I'd been doing for a couple miles. I assumed that slow speed meant the 30 mph speed limit on the river, so I hopped up on a plane. As soon as I did, Debbie said, "Here he comes". He pulled me over, and I explained about the confusing signs. He wrote me a warning. I've yet to figure out why certain parts of this river are idle zones for the manatees, while others aren't. It isn't that wide of a river. I think manatees like big houses with dock apparently, because that's where the "Manatee Zones" are located. Maybe Manatee is an old Indian word for "Big Dock".
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Old 12-19-2006, 09:39 AM
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Default Re: Manatee Zones, just don't work

Confusing signs???? What am I supposed to do when I see this one???
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Old 12-19-2006, 10:14 AM
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Default Re: Manatee Zones, just don't work

Here's the guy that got me. I idled past him while he was writing this guy. He dropped in behind me for a couple miles. Here is the rest of my law breaking crew.
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Old 12-19-2006, 06:03 PM
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Default Re: Manatee Zones, just don't work

Here's a link to the Florida Today newspaper BLOG. It's getting pretty wild!

http://forums.floridatoday.com/viewt...ce7dfa3d729317
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Old 12-19-2006, 06:06 PM
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Default Re: Manatee Zones, just don't work

Just so happens Debbie and I were on the river today, and saw a momma and a baby manatee.
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Old 12-19-2006, 09:21 PM
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Default Re: Manatee Zones, just don't work

..
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Old 12-20-2006, 07:50 AM
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Default Re: Manatee Zones, just don't work

Quote:
Originally Posted by cuda
Just so happens Debbie and I were on the river today, and saw a momma and a baby manatee.

I know Cuda, they are everywhere now, including Tennesse, and up and down the east coast in the summer months! Sounds like an animal on the brink of exstinction to me!?
Man, I really dislike the $MC!
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Old 12-22-2006, 07:19 AM
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Default Re: Manatee Zones, just don't work

This article is out of the Florida Today editorial section today.


Our view: Duty to protect

Protecting the natural treasures we are entrusted with in the paradise we call Florida is an obligation -- and a privilege.

Fortunately, when it comes to endangered manatees, some people understand that.

As Mark Hayworth, an Orlandoan who fishes on the Space Coast says, "I don't have a problem with manatee zones. You've got to do what you've got to do."

We couldn't agree more.

Despite the claims of some who oppose slow-speed boating zones set up to protect manatees, the speed limits are needed to keep the slow-moving and slowly reproducing species from being killed by boat propellers.

Especially in Brevard, where 84 manatees were killed in 2006 -- 20 of them by watercraft.

So we were encouraged last year when the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission took over management of sometimes-confusing manatee-zone speed signs from the Florida Inland Navigation District.

We're more encouraged, now that the FWC is setting up 65 new idle- and slow-speed signs and fixing damaged ones in district waters.

While some note manatee deaths have increased since 2001, when the rules were instated in Brevard, so has the number of boats registered here.

The number is now 40,000.

The fact is, the zones haven't been in effect or enforced long enough to know how effective they might be.

After they were imposed, officials OK'd a long grace period on enforcement. In part, because some zones aren't clearly marked, some are not marked at all.

Then, after hurricanes destroyed many signs, enforcement again was lax.

In the past two years, 82 percent of the 4,194 boaters stopped for going too fast in manatee zones got only a warning.

The new signs with clearer terminology should help, and once in place, should be backed by much tougher enforcement.

Only after several years under those conditions can the value of the zones be measured.

Whatever the best methods, saving the manatees is essential.

Not just for the creatures themselves, which fossil evidence shows trace their ancestry in Florida back millions of years. And not just for those whose pleasure in seeing them makes life more rewarding.

It's also important because saving a species focuses attention on the creatures' habitat, in this case the Indian River Lagoon, which is under assault from a steady flow of pollution.

The lagoon is a recreational area open to all and -- bringing it down to dollars -- a scenic wonder that adds to property values, revenue, employment and tourism for all who live along the coast.

Ultimately, failing to take the steps necessary for environmental preservation can have irremediable consequences, as a story in Sunday's New York Times shows.

Dredging, propeller noise and pollution that killed the fish eaten by China's white river dolphin have driven it to extinction, making it the first sea mammal to die out in modern times.

Losing a species forever is a betrayal of future generations, and Florida must guard against any such threat to the manatees.




The BULL$HIT Part of the story is that Manatee Zones have been in place in Brevard Co. since 1991, and the ~ # of Manatees are still being killed, BECAUSE OF THE BARGE CANAL, and the tugs and fuel barges that go back and forth from the Power Plants on the ICW and the Port of Canaveral! Every manatee zone we boat thru, EVERYBODY is abiding by the law, I hardly ever see anyone blowing through a Manatee Zone!!!!!

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Old 12-22-2006, 05:16 PM
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Default Re: Manatee Zones, just don't work

I have a 26 foot twin outboard tunnel boat.It draws about 34 inches at 5 mph,16 inches at minimum plane and 10 inches at 100.The props spin about 11'136 times per mile at 5 mph,4'629 at 30 and 2'259 at 100.Does this indicate the sea cow will be hit more than twice as often and with more than twice as many blades at 5 mph than at ANY planing speed?I don't know if the one foot deep unseen manatee will move away from a 5 mph boat but I would be surprised to see it rise from 3 feet in time to be hit by a fast planing boat.
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