JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today withdrew its federal designation at two manatee refuges in Florida: the Pansy Bayou Manatee Refuge in Sarasota County and the Cocoa Beach Manatee Refuge in Brevard County, the FWS said in a release this morning.
However, service officials said that withdrawing the federal designations would not diminish manatee protection in those areas.
“Our first priority remains the protection of manatees,” said Sam D. Hamilton, the service’s southeast regional director. “The service believes that its original designations were warranted and prudent to prevent take at the time. However, because the state later provided comparable protections in these areas, it is now appropriate to withdraw the federal designations.”
Hamilton noted that the withdrawal is consistent with the service’s position regarding state regulatory actions.
“The service has long been on record saying that when we find the state or local protection measures comparable to ours, we will consider withdrawing federal protection,” Hamilton said.
In November 2002, the service designated 13 manatee protection areas in Florida, including the Pansy Bayou and the Cocoa Beach Manatee Refuge. State and federal manatee-protection regulations both called for slow, year-round vessel speed. As such, the service decided to withdraw its refuge designation and to defer to the state’s regulations governing waterborne activities currently in effect in both of these areas (F.A.C. 68C-22.026 and 22.006, respectively).
Service officials also noted that they believed the state’s variance and exemption regulations will not decrease manatee protection in these particular areas.
The withdrawal rule, fact sheet and a list of frequently asked questions are available online at http://northflorida.fws.gov. Paper copies may be requested in writing by email to email@example.com, by fax at 904-232-2404, or by regular mail to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: MPA Withdrawal Rule, 6620 Southpoint Dr., South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 32216-0958.