Evaluation of Boater Compliance with Manatee Speed Zones along the Gulf Coast of Florida
A series of boater compliance studies was performed between 1995 and 1998 in order to assess the effectiveness of existing speed zones designed to protect manatees in two Florida counties (Sarasota County and Lee County). Surveys involved teams of boat- or land-based observers positioned along speed-restricted waterways. Vessel characteristics were recorded along with observed speed. Multiple survey sites were sampled within each county. A total of 26,000 vessels was observed and evaluated. Overall boater compliance was 63% in Sarasota County and 58% in Lee County. Compliance varied significantly with vessel type and size. Differences in compliance among survey sites were also significant and were related to travel patterns, traffic volume, vessel composition, sign placement, level of speed restriction, and law enforcement presence. From a management perspective, it is recommended that speed zones for the protection of manatees be evaluated on a site-by-site basis to identify specific areas of concern.
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