Florida Senate passes controversial manatee bill

TALLAHASSEE – A bill that environmentalists say would weaken manatee protection regulations passed the Florida Senate by a vote of 32-7 Tuesday, according to a story in today’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

One provision of the legislation (SB 540) would set manatee population goals by region, and when numbers reach target levels in those areas, new manatee protection regulations would be more difficult to impose, the newspaper reported.

Activists from the Save the Manatee Club have been fighting the bill.

“It’s what the boaters want. It’s not what the manatees need,” Helen Spivey, co-chairwoman of the club’s board, told the newspaper.

Other provisions included in the legislation would require the state to assess boat signs and speeds, deciding whether signs are effective, and evaluate high-speed travel corridors in manatee zones. A study of manatee longevity and reproduction would also be required, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

“There is nothing in this bill that does anything but protect manatees,” Sen. Mike Bennett, the bill’s sponsor, told the newspaper.

The legislation must still pass a vote in the House before it could be sent to Gov. Jeb Bush for his signature, according to the story.

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