ABOUT THE TAMPA BAY ESTUARY PROGRAM
TBEP Committees » Manatee Awareness Coalition
Manatee Awareness Coalition
The MAC is a diverse group of local government officials, utility companies, scientists, and representatives of boating interests working together to improve manatee protection in Tampa Bay. Members include bay managers from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties; marine law enforcement agencies; the Coast Guard Auxiliary; the Florida Guides Association; the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs; The Ocean Conservancy; Save The Manatee Club; the Hillsborough Environmental Protection Commission; and Tampa Electric Company.
The MAC was created in 1998 as the successor to the Manatee Protection Strategies Task Force coordinated by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. A final report issued by the Task Force recommended several manatee speed zones in Tampa Bay, along with enhanced boater education, and referred those recommendations to the Tampa Bay Estuary Program for implementation. TBEP created the Manatee Awareness Coalition to carry out the recommendations of the Task Force.
Since 1998, the MAC has been a leader in promoting science-based manatee protection efforts in Tampa Bay, and in creating innovative educational programs. Among the MAC's accomplishments:
- Coordinating the 3-year Tampa Bay Manatee Watch Program, which recruited and trained citizens for two separate but connected tasks related to protection of the more than 200 endangered Florida manatees that inhabit Tampa Bay. Collisions with boat hulls and propellers are a major cause of manatee mortality in the bay, and throughout Florida. Public outreach volunteers participating in Manatee Watch taught boaters how to maneuver safely in the shallow, seagrass meadows of Tampa Bay where manatees feed and rest. Outreach volunteers provided information and safe boating tools such as nautical charts and polarized sunglasses at boat ramps as well on the water, from a specially equipped, manatee-friendly pontoon boat. Research volunteers assisted scientists in observing and recording data about boater activity in manatee habitats, as a means of scientifically assessing the effectiveness of our educational effort in altering boater behavior. The research assistants were trained to use a spotting scope and to accurately complete detailed data sheets.
- Forming the basis of the state-mandated Local Rule Review Committee for Tampa bay, which met for four months in 2003 to develop consensus recommndatiosn fro a network of manatee speed zones.
- Creating the "Minute for Manatees" program with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, where MAC members trained safe boating course instructors to incorporate brief messages about how boaters can help protect manatees and seagrasses.
- Creating the "Manatee Friendly Neighborhood" program to recognize neighborhoods who implement a minimum number of activities deisgned to make their neighborhood more eco-friendly, from installing storm drain markers, fishgin line recycling stations and "Caution Manatee" dock signs, to publishing manatee protection tips in their association newsletter.
- Creating "Bay-Friendly Boaters Kits," customized packets of information for new boaters, including a "Rules of the Road" boat sticker from Boat U.S., the Boater's and Angler's Guide to Tampa Bay, and a free nautical chart of the bay. Additional information is provided based on the boater's preferred activities (such as fishing or cruising), and the areas in which they most frequently boat. Boaters are asked to complete a short survey about their boating patterns and preferences to ensure they are given information tailored to their needs.
- Providing comments and feedback on various manatee and seagrass protection issues in Tampa Bay, at the request of our local government partners.