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Read manatee zone signs carefully when boating. The rules for slow-speed zones change three times from the Fuller Warren Bridge to Reddie Point.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Apr. 27, 201512:00 PM EST

Slower boats keep manatees safer

by: Carole Hawkins

Robert Holmquist of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s Marine Unit often catches boaters going too fast around the Downtown skyline section of the St. Johns River.

“It’s confusing here,” he said as he powered his vessel beneath the Hart Bridge. He meant the slow speed zones for boats.

The rules for those zones change three times between the Warren Fuller Bridge and Reddie Point — with speed limits topping out at 25 mph in places, but dropping to slow-ahead elsewhere for shoreline buffers or for spots outside the shipping channel.

The slow zones are there to protect manatees.

There were no manatee deaths in Duval County in 2014 — the only year of the past six where there have been none.

Speed enforcement is what has brought that number down from eight deaths in 2009, officials said.

The Sheriff’s Office, the United States Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission kicked off boating season last week by reminding people to practice boating safety and to observe safe speeds in 2015.

The agencies jointly enforce manatee protection in Jacksonville area waters.

Patricia Grant of the Sheriff’s Office said doing so protects the River City’s quality of life.

“Jacksonville is home to a large population of manatees and we want to make sure they do not get killed,” she said. “They are easy to spot if you travel at a slow speed.”

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