Posted at 4:18 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 9:16 AM, Nov 17, 2021


and last updated 9:09 AM, Jun 16, 2021

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Lee County Commissioners want to place year-round slow-speed zones for boaters in certain areas to help better protect manatees.

Officials say the manatee slow speed zone ordinance would be applicable to Captiva Island (bayside including Roosevelt Channel), North Captiva (Safety Harbor), and Gasparilla Island (Boca Grande Bayou).

Lee County Commissioners would also need to seek approval of the ordinance from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Tim Martell, owner of Seaway Outfitters and Southwest Florida water guide, makes his living by helping people discover first-hand these Florida icons.

“Any time there is a speed zone in place, you can expect to see a decrease in manatee injuries and mortalities,” said Martell.

On Tuesday, manatee protection zones are enforced in Southwest Florida from April 1- November 15.

During the summer months, Martell says warmer waters allow manatees to travel outside of Florida but now that cooler waters are coming in manatees are ready to come home.

“Whenever the fall comes around and those water temperatures start to drop, especially when they get down around 68 degrees or maybe even below that all manatees will return to Florida,” he said.

Florida Fish and Wildlife report that from January 1, 2021, to November 5, 2021, 997 manatees have died in Florida waterways, with 89 of those being from boats.

While food supply and other factors have also contributed to the rise in deaths, this is why Martell and Lee County agree we should change what we can control.

“In general the average person really doesn’t have a lot of control over the threats that manatees face, except for when you drive your boat,” said Martell.

Lee County Commissioners are expected to submit a plan for approval to FWC and after that, the ordinance will be brought back to the board for a public hearing.

On Tuesday, Lee County officials say they are still in the planning stages and boaters should not expect to see any changes in the immediate future.

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