The Progressive


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For Immediate Release
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Feds Announce Emergency Rule to Protect Manatees

Expanded Manatee Refuge and Winter Limits on Boating, Swimming and Fishing


Fearing another deadly winter and facing
the threat of a lawsuit, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has
unveiled emergency restrictions for Florida's largest wintering habitats
for the endangered manatee. The emergency rule, which will go into
effect from November 15, 2010 until March 15, 2011, addresses many of
the issues raised in a pending Notice of Intent to Sue from Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Citing an "imminent danger" to manatees, the emergency rule, sent this
week to the Federal Register, will establish a manatee refuge covering
the entire Kings Bay area, a warm water haven for an estimated 565
manatees located on the Gulf coast north of Tampa. This emergency
action will restrict waterborne activities, such as boating, throughout
an area that now attracts more than 100,000 manatee-viewing tourists a
year. Further restrictions could be imposed if threats to manatees
warrant them. During the 120-day period the rule is in effect, the Fish
& Wildlife Service will hold public hearings to aid it in drafting
permanent protective measures.

Last winter saw record manatee deaths from acute cold shock, due to lack
of sufficient warm water habitat. Thus far in 2010, 677 manatees have
died from all causes. In justifying the need for urgent action, the
Fish & Wildlife Service stated:

"Increasing numbers of
in-water visitors to Kings Bay and an absence of adequate space at
wintering areas in which manatees can shelter free from harassment and
other forms of take prompt the need for this emergency designation.
Without sufficient space within the existing Kings Bay sanctuaries to
shelter, rest, and feed free from harassment, manatees are at risk when
exposed to cold temperatures for any length of time."

"We are very pleased with this
announcement," stated PEER Staff Counsel Christine Erickson "We will
urge the Fish & Wildlife Service to make these restrictions
permanent and to adopt additional measures to prevent harmful
interactions with manatees."

The Service's notice also states that "We will also restrict and/or
prohibit specific actions known to take manatees in Kings Bay outside of
existing manatee sanctuaries, like riding or attempting to ride a

"Abusing manatees should be prohibited
everywhere, not just in Kings Bay," added Erickson, whose legal filings
have highlighted the stress on endangered species from burgeoning
"swim-with" tours in which crowds of swimming tourists poke, chase,
stand on or kick manatees, as well as separating mothers from calves.
"Because it long ignored these clear threats to manatees, the Fish &
Wildlife Service now has to declare an emergency to prevent imminent
harm that it should have seen coming."


Read the emergency rule

See the PEER notice of intent to sue

Look at looming threats facing manatee populations

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.