Boat Show Sea Trials may Adversely Impact Manatees

The Miami International Boat Show and Miami International Yacht show are joining together to take place in one location downtown in February 2022. It will be big! The Sponsor plans nearly 1,000 exhibition slips. While we look forward to an event that brings people together and connects people to the water, we are concerned that the event occurs within an area designated as important and essential for the manatee.  Specifically, the show proposes to allow sea trials, or test drives, to occur in areas where manatees are likely to be feeding, resting, mating, nursing, sheltering from the cold, and traveling. 

DERM technical staff recommended moving forward with the boat show and supported the positive economic impact that it provides the County and endorsed the construction of temporary slips for stationary exhibits.  However, DERM staff recommended denial of sea trials in this location due to the rational expectation that demonstration trips would reasonably be expected to adversely affect the manatee. In addition to the increased risk of individuals sustaining a direct vessel strike, the significant event traffic is likely to disrupt their normal behavior. Everything that disrupts their behavior disrupts their ability to survive.  

However, DERM’s technical finding was overruled by the Board of County Commissioners, not on the basis of best available science but because of considerations of tourism and the economy. 

This has been a devastating year for the state and federally protected manatee in Florida. At least 1,038 individuals have died in 2021. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced on December 8th that they are resorting to unprecedented supplemental feeding to alleviate the crisis. 

The application for the Boat Show is also being reviewed by state and federal agencies. Let the state and federal agency regulators know that this location is inappropriate for sea trials.