Brevard wants Florida to look at effectiveness of manatee speed zones

By Jerry Hume, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 2:44 PM EST

Brevard County commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday asking Florida wildlife leaders to find out whether speed limits on Space Coast waterways are actually protecting manatees.

The proposal was introduced just days after the federal government announced it plans to reclassify the manatee from an endangered species to a threatened species.

Curt Smith, a Brevard County commissioner, thinks there is no evidence the manatee protection zones actually save manatees, because the marine mammals can hear boats coming.

"I don't think there is any impact with manatees," Smith said. "They get out of the way. I've seen it."

Smith wants the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to research the issue, and if the zones prove not to work, he wants to see speed restrictions removed from the Indian and Banana rivers.

Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation with the Save the Manatee Club, said Brevard County is one of the top two counties in Florida each year for watercraft-related manatee deaths.

"Those numbers would only go up if a proposal like this were to take root," Tripp said.

According to the FWC, Brevard County had the second highest watercraft-related manatee deaths in 2015. Lee County led the state.

Smith will ask the rest of the Brevard County Commission on Tuesday to approve the resolution, which would petition state wildlife officials to begin researching the effectiveness of manatee protection zones and remove unreasonable speed restrictions.

A similar measure is being proposed during the legislative session in Tallahassee.