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[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of FWS News and
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 11:12 AM
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Subject: [fws-news] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Broadened
Florida Manatee Protections in Kings Bay
Chuck Underwood, 904-731-3332
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Broadened
Florida Manatee Protections in Kings Bay
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today a proposal
expand federal protection areas for manatees in Citrus County, Florida,
creating a manatee refuge including all of Kings Bay in Crystal River.
proposed area of the Kings Bay manatee refuge has not changed from what
was identified in the emergency designation.
The manatee refuge would include all waters of Kings Bay, its
and adjoining water bodies upstream of the confluence of Kings Bay and
Crystal River. In addition to the proposed rule, the Service is making
available its related draft environmental assessment (EA) for comment.
The proposal reflects the first part of the rulemaking process that
permanently establish the November 2010 emergency designation of a
manatee refuge in Kings Bay. This action, taken under the provisions
contained in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal
Protection Act (MMPA), would provide the Service with management options
to address the needs of the increasing number of manatees using the
Bay area throughout the year.
The Service designated the first manatee sanctuaries in 1980. At that
time, about 100 manatees were using the network of springs and the
of people viewing manatees was estimated at 30,000 to 40,000 per year.
Today, more than 550 manatees use Kings Bay and winter manatee viewing
activities are estimated to exceed 100,000 people each winter. In recent
years, manatees have also been observed using Kings Bay during the
"The number of manatees using Kings Bay throughout the year has simply
outgrown the capacity of existing protected areas," said Dave Hankla,
Service's North Florida Ecological Services Office supervisor, adding,
"and human use of the bay has increased beyond the impacts originally
considered when the existing protections were created."
Manatee mortalities within Kings Bay have also increased during this
period of time. Of the 16 watercraft-related manatee deaths known to
occurred in Kings Bay, 13 of those were in the last 10 years. Seven of
these deaths occurred during the summer months between May 1 and August
By regulations established under the authorities of the ESA and the
the Service can establish manatee protection areas when there is
substantial evidence showing such establishment is necessary to prevent
the taking of one or more manatees. Take is generally defined as the
harassment, harm, death or injury of a listed species, along with a
variety of other harmful actions. Manatee protection areas can be either
manatee sanctuaries or manatee refuges.
Manatee refuges are areas where certain waterborne activities, such as
watercraft speed, are restricted to prevent the taking of one or more
manatees. Manatee sanctuaries are areas in which all waterborne
are prohibited. The Kings Bay manatee refuge joins an existing federal
manatee protection network of 11 sanctuaries and 13 refuges. The Kings
manatee refuge will not eliminate the 7 existing sanctuary areas already
established in Kings Bay but compliment them by addressing take
from waterborne activities in the remaining areas.
The proposed area of the Kings Bay manatee refuge has not changed from
what was identified in the emergency designation, however, additional
provisions are being proposed.
The new provisions include watercraft speed restrictions in Kings Bay to
slow speed year-round except in those areas where more restrictive
measures are in place. Also, the ability to create temporary no-entry
areas around lesser springs like House Spring, in addition to those
identified in the emergency designation is included. The provisions also
provide the ability to establish temporary no-entry areas for no more
14 days if a cold front hits before the manatee season begins or after
manatee season has closed to prevent manatees from being harassed in
If made final, manatee viewing guidelines, many of which have been in
place for several years, would be permanently incorporated into the rule
as prohibited acts and would be legally enforceable by federal and state
marine law enforcement officers. Activities identified in the proposed
rule that would be specifically prohibited throughout the manatee refuge
Chasing or pursuing manatee(s).
Disturbing or touching resting or feeding manatee(s).
Diving from the surface on to resting or feeding manatee(s).
Cornering or surrounding or attempting to corner or surround manatee(s).
Riding, holding, grabbing, or pinching or attempting to ride, hold,
or pinch manatee(s).
Poking, prodding, or stabbing, or attempting to poke, prod, or stab
manatee(s) with anything, including hands and feet.
Standing on or attempting to stand on manatee(s).
Separating a mother and calf or attempting to separate a mother and
Separating manatee(s) from a group or attempting to separate manatee(s)
from a group.
Giving manatee(s) anything to eat or drink or attempting to give
manatee(s) anything to eat or drink.
Actively initiating contact with belted and/or tagged manatee(s) and
associated gear, including any belts, harnesses, tracking devices, and
Interfering with rescue and research activities.
Using mooring and float lines that can entangle manatees.
In addition to the above prohibited activities, the following waterborne
activities would be prohibited within Three Sisters Springs from
15 to March 31:
o Entering Three Sisters Spring between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
o Scuba diving
o Fishing, including but not limited to fishing by hook and line,
cast net, or spear.
Manatee protection areas are designated in the water and do not include
land acquisition or land parcels. Public and private waterfront property
owners and their designees retain riparian access to their properties
can maintain property and waterways when their property adjoins or is
located in a manatee refuge. Public and private waterfront property
would be required to obtain a sticker and letter of authorization
them to operate their boats and conduct property and waterway
activities in a manner consistent with the refuge or sanctuary measures
that are in effect adjacent to their property.
The Service encourages all stakeholders to comment on the proposed
designation. Comments are particularly sought concerning: (1) the
why this area should or should not be designated as a manatee refuge,
including information supporting the need for any changes; (2) current
planned activities in the subject area and their possible effects on
manatees; (3) any foreseeable economic or other impacts resulting from
proposed designation; (4) any substantive information on real or
effects of the proposed manatee refuge on manatees; and (5) any actions
that could be considered in lieu of, or in conjunction with, the
designation that would provide equivalent protection to the manatee
against the threat of take.
Please note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to
the proposed rule without providing supporting information, although
noted, will not be considered in making a final decision, as the ESA and
our implementing regulations direct decisions be made ?solely on the
of the best scientific and commercial data available.?
You may submit comments on the proposed rule and EA by one of the
Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow
instructions for submitting comments to Docket No.
U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn:
Docket No. [FWS?R4?ES?2010?0079]; Division of Policy and Directives
Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS
2042?PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
Verbally by attending the formal public hearing. You may also
submit written comments at the public hearing.
Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before August 22, 2011.
The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This
generally means the agency will post any personal information provided
through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.
The Service has scheduled an informational open house and formal public
hearing on July 7, 2011, as follows:
College of Central Florida - Citrus Campus
CF Conference Center
3800 S. Lecanto Hwy.
Lecanto, FL 34461-9026
Informational Open House: 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Formal Public Hearing: 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The open house affords the interested parties an informal opportunity to
hear information and ask questions about the proposed manatee refuge
The formal public hearing provides a formal, structured opportunity for
interested parties to verbally express their comments on the proposed
For more information about the manatee and this proposed rule, please
visit the Service at http://www.fws.gov/southeast/ or
Follow the regional office?s Twitter feed: #floridamanatee,
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