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Manatee Zones Adopted by FWC

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved 10 new manatee protection zones. The FWC met at the Osceola County Administration Building in Kissimmee. Manatee protection measures were decided for Charlotte, Citrus, Hillsborough, Indian River, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Before taking final action more than 100 hours of public input were considered from workshops, stakeholders' meetings and public hearings. The special meeting was scheduled for central Florida rather than Pensacola (at the regular meeting) to ensure that people who live in affected counties would have ample opportunity to share their ideas and opinions with the agency.

In Citrus County, two seasonal (Nov. 15 – March 31) no entry zones will take effect in the Blue Waters area of the Homosassa River. However, the FWC will allow public access to part of the Blue Waters area, even when the zones are in effect. The entire area will remain accessible during warmer months. The new manatee protection zones will take effect as soon as signs can be posted.

The FWC chairman said the Commission worked diligently to ensure the new regulations strike a balance between the rights of boaters and property owners and sound management practices for protecting manatees.

Divers-Down Flag Rules in Florida

Flags displayed on vessels must be at least 20"X24" and must have a stiffener to  keep the flag unfurled. Dive flags carried on floats may still be 12"X12".

Dive flags on vessels must be displayed at a high point where it can be observed from 360 degrees.

All vessels approaching a dive flag must make reasonable effort to stay at least 100 feet away from a dive flag within a river, inlet, or channel and divers must make a reasonable effort to stay within 100 feet of the dive flags. In open waters, vessels must make a reasonable effort to stay within 300 feet of the dive flag.

Vessels may approach with 100 ft. or 300 ft of a divers-down flag only at idle speed.

"Buzzing a dive flag has been added to the description of reckless operation of a vessel, which is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1000 and/or 6 months in jail.

You must display a dive flag when towing a diver behind a boat.

Dive Flags must be removed when divers or snorkelers exit the water.

Scalloping on the Nature Coast