Manatee bill causes controversy

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida legislature has begun debate on a controversial bill that proponents say would scientifically determine the effectiveness of manatee-related boating restrictions. However, opponents believe the bill could put more animals at risk, the Fort Myers News-Press reported in an article today.

No action was taken yesterday, as the Senate committee argued the merits of legislation that would provide $750,000 to the Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota to study sea-grass beds and for the genetic tagging of manatees to track their numbers, according to the newspaper.

The bill would also require the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to submit a progress report on the effectiveness of signage and boat-speed limits in the protection of manatees by Jan. 1, 2007, the News-Press reported.

State Senator Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton), the bill’s sponsor, said if certain benchmarks are met, such as a 90-percent survival rate for adult manatees, the presumption would be that the regulations were working, and that further regulation would therefore be unnecessary, according to the newspaper.

The News-Press said dock-building and boating advocates favored the legislation while environmentalists were alarmed by it.


“This allows the outright killing of supposedly excess manatees we have in this state,” Laurie McDonald of the Defenders of Wildlife told the newspaper.

Peggy Matthews of the Florida Marine Contractors Association disagreed, according to the newspaper.

“It’s critical this bill is passed,” Matthews said. “The only time a scientific study is bad is when you’re afraid of the findings.”

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