New manatee plan calls for more speed zones

NAPLES, Fla. – A draft of a new state management plan for manatees recently released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission could mean more speed zones and tougher enforcement of existing zones in Lee County, Fla., the Naples Daily News reported in a story today.

The plan outlines six objectives that will serve as the framework for protecting and managing manatees in the state. The FWC is required to adopt the plan because it is reclassifying the manatees’ status from endangered to threatened, according to the story.

Lee County could be one of the focus areas for perhaps the most controversial objective — improving strategies to minimize the risk of boat-manatee collisions, Kip Frohlich, imperiled species management leader for the commission, told the newspaper.

“It will be a focus area in terms of enforcement and coordination that will help lead towards compliance with speed zones,” Frohlich said.

However, if the plan means more speed zones, boating groups might sue to roll back protection, said Les Hickman, a Cape Coral resident.

“If they want to put in more speed zones, they will find themselves back in court again,” Hickman said. “If we have to show the FWC the light of day and it takes a courtroom to do it, believe me an organization like Coastal Conservation Association will take them to court.”

Hickman is a member of the association, which advocates for anglers’ rights, but said he is not a spokesman. The association’s local director could not be reached for comment, the newspaper reported.

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