ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has passed sweeping new protections for manatees, creating slow-speed zones along extensive shoreline areas of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties, according to a story in the Tampa Tribune today.
The commission adopted the new boating restrictions at an all-day meeting Tuesday with more than 40 speakers arguing for and against the speed zones, according to the newspaper. The commission unanimously approved most of its staff scientists' recommendations, which underwent nearly two years of public meetings and public comment.
The speed-zone changes apply to all watercraft. Some of the more significant changes, as reported in the Tribune, included:
– In Pinellas County, the commission approved slow speed zones - between 5 mph and 10 mph - along the coast from Courtney Campbell causeway north to, and including, Safety Harbor.
– In Hillsborough County, the commission enacted a summer-only slow-speed zone on a section of Tampa coastline just north of Courtney Campbell, with a 25-mph channel along the north side of the causeway. The Little Manatee River, which had no speed limits, will have a limit of 25 mph for its entire length, except the shallow grass flats at its mouth, where watercraft will be limited to idle speed.
– In Manatee County, all of Bishops Harbor will be a slow speed zone. Watercraft in the shallow areas along the banks of the Manatee River also will be limited to slow speed. Most of the Braden River will be a slow speed zone except for some eastern recreational areas.
To see the new speed zones in their entirety, go to www.myfwc.com and click on news from the Sept. 22-24 commission meeting, then click on agenda. Scroll down to manatee protection rules.
The new rules take effect as soon as the affected areas can be posted, according to the Tribune.
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