Manatee Zones: What are they and why should you slow down?
The manatee is Florida’s official State marine mammal. Manatees are large aquatic relative of the elephant. They are big, slow, sweet herbivores who are endangered, and therefore in need of protection. Naturally the greatest danger to a manatee is posed by man.
Thus, rules have been established to protect the manatee population by restricting the speed and operation of vessels where necessary to protect manatees from harmful collisions with vessels, and also to protect manatees from harassment by humans.
The Manatee Sanctuary Act, is found at 379.2431(2), Florida Statutes, and authorizes restrictions in designated manatee zones. This Act also makes it “unlawful for any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb any manatee.” So if you see one feel free to look, but don’t touch or feed them. Even giving them fresh water is a criminal act.
Apart from State law manatees are also protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, making it illegal to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal.
Anyone convicted of violating this state law faces a possible maximum fine of $500 and/or imprisonment for up to 60 days. Conviction on the federal level is punishable by fine of up to $50,000 and/or one year in prison.
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