Boaters in Florida have to be concerned not only with the usual hazards of boating, but also collisions with wildlife, such as manatees that inhabit the waters in coastal waters and some distance inland. Manatees can weigh up to 1200 pounds and are slow-moving creatures, which can make them a hazard for boaters. If you hit a manatee while operating your craft at high speed in a manatee zone, you can be arrested and charged under both federal and state laws.
Preventing Manatee Collisions
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates that 25 to 30 percent of manatee deaths across the state are caused by boats and other watercraft. These deaths occur due to both cutting incidence from propellers and blunt-force impacts. The dwindling numbers of this Florida species caused conservation experts to call for legal protection of manatees as an endangered species, and a number of laws to protect them were enacted.
A collision with a manatee is not an unusual occurrence in Florida waters. Manatees are large, gentle, slow-moving creatures that often cannot get out of the way of boat traffic quickly. They can stay submerged beneath the surface of the water for as much as 20 minutes, which makes it difficult for boaters to determine if they are present in the water. In addition, cold-water temperatures can cause them to move even more slowly. The state of Florida has designated a number of waterways as manatee protection zones where manatees are known to inhabit, on a seasonal or permanent basis. These areas are clearly marked with signs alerting boaters to their presence. Lower boating speeds are required in these areas.
Manatee Collision Charges
If you hit a manatee while
boating, you will not be charged with endangerment of a protected species if you
have been driving at the manatee protection zone speed determined in that
region. However, if you have been found to be speeding in these zones,
you can be arrested and prosecuted under the pertaining statutes. If you
have injured a manatee while operating a watercraft, your legal responsibility
is to the report the injury to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission through its toll free number.
If you are arrested in connection with a because of a collision with a manatee, you should consult with an experienced attorney to ensure that your legal rights under the law are protected. The law office of Bryan Caulfield can help you to navigate the legal system regarding manatee endangerment charges