With contributions from Lt. Elizabeth Buendia.
America’s waterways and their ecosystems are vital to the country’s economy and health. The Coast Guard helps sustain our natural resources and protect the nation’s rich marine environment by working with local, state and federal partners. Recently, the Coast Guard formalized their partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife to reinforce efforts in safeguarding the Florida manatee.
The Coast Guard has a long history of protecting manatees, and the two agencies wanted to continue this effort by formalize their actions and signing a memorandum of understanding. This is the first formal document recognizing the Coast Guard’s role in assisting with manatee stranding response and authorizes Coast Guard crews to provide emergency support for the rescue of stranded manatees as requested by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Under this formalized partnership, Coast Guard vessels and aircraft can provide assistance, logistic support and safety standby for manatee stranding and disentanglement responses.
“The Coast Guard takes great pride in being able to do our job to help recover and maintain our nation’s marine protected species such as the endangered manatee,” said Capt. Mark Ogle, chief of future operations at Coast Guard Atlantic Area.
Although manatees are protected under both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, collisions with boats continue to be the most pressing human-related threat to manatees. The Coast Guard protects endangered manatees by enforcing federally-regulated manatee zones throughout Florida. To enforce the zones, Coast Guard units stop vessels operating above posted speed limits and issue monetary fines.
Throughout the region, the Coast Guard has issued more than 33 manatee speed zone violations already this year and has conducted numerous joint patrols to encourage compliance and reduce manatee deaths.
Miami-Dade Police and the City of Miami Police-Marine Patrol units are also adding to the team effort and have increased their enforcement in manatee and no-wake zones. As a boater in Florida, you can also make a difference in the effort to protect the manatee. Boaters are reminded to observe all manatee speed zones and to report sightings of stranded or injured manatees to the Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16.
The Florida manatee is a unique species and an icon. The Coast Guard, in partnership with local, state and federal agencies will continue to protect these animals as a leader in living marine resource stewardship.