To the editor:
If you are not aware, there is a "seasonal" manatee slow speed zone along the south side of St. james City. It is only in effect from April 1 till Nov. 15 each year.
I was out boating right after the first of the month and unfortunately come back along this area. US Fish and Wildlife (Feds) were out in this area writing tickets. Rather than cruise the area with a large sign cautioning boaters to slow down and remind them of the seasonal manatee zone was now in effect, they were writing tickets at a furious pace.
It is not about the manatees it's about the money. The law provides a quarter mile buffer for the manatee zone and it is marked by several floating buoys, generally running parallel to the shoreline. U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers were lined up with the markers and anyone who crossed the line at a normal rate of speed received a ticket, period, no questions. I got mine because I was running parallel to the markers just inside, maybe 50 feet.
I truly thought the restriction went into effect April 15 and not April 1. It didn't matter. A little later I watched a large boat coming out of Monroe Canal. As they approached the manatee buoy, they punched it and immediately turned east toward the river. Sure enough, the US Fish and Wildlife officers chased them down and gave them a ticket. This isn't "enforcement" it's "harassment." No one even knows if the buoys are in the right spot and a boater who slowly motors 1,200 feet before picking up speed deserves the benefit of the doubt. But with these guys, it was obvious their goal was to write as many tickets as possible.
I say again, it is not about the manatees, it's about the income stream and the Feds throwing their weight around. It is harassment plain and simple.
On April 11, there was a nice article in a local publication reminding boaters of the migration of the manatees and of the "seasonal" speed zones, unfortunately it was two weeks too late.
George P. Burdell
St. James City