ecosystem blog

Miami Waterkeeper Stands Up for the Manatees

Miami-Dade County technical staff recommended no sea trials at the upcoming Miami International Boat Show in February 2022 out of concern for manatees that use the area during the winter. However, the Commissioners ignored this recommendation and approved sea trials anyway! In 2021, over 1,100 protected manatees in Florida died. We can't risk any additional manatee deaths or disruption to their normal behavior that sea trials could cause by putting potentially significant powerboat traffic on the water. 

The annual Boat Show is important and it connects people to the water, but sea trials are too risky for manatees in this area. In the past, sea trials were prohibited as part of the boat show in this location.

Miami Waterkeeper and our partners at the Center for Biological Diversity and Tropical Audubon sent a letter on December 22, 2021 to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) urging them to allow the boat show, but to skip the sea trials, like Miami-Dade County DERM staff recommend. In a follow-up call with these agencies, we also urged them to think carefully about the sheer scale of impacts--including the setup and breakdown that would add even more boats to the water--that the entire event would incur here. MWK and our partners sent a second letter to the federal Fish and Wildlife Service on January 7th, 2022 outlining our concerns.

On January 14th the FDEP and DERM issued their authorizations. We were pleased to see that of the three sea trial routes proposed by the applicant, only one was approved. Sea trials are authorized for the February 2022 event only. Moreover, the scope of the show has been reduced from 947 exhibit slips to 650.  The permits contain additional monitoring and protective measures for the manatee. We are glad that the boat show sponsors and agencies worked towards these ends. Nonetheless, we still believe that this location--designated by the resource agencies as both "essential" and "important" for manatees--is inappropriate for such a large powerboat event hosting sea trials.

Most recently, our friends at Clean This Beach Up alerted us to the presence of manatees directly in the boat show footprint as the show sets up floating docks.

Read the Miami Herald article on the controversy surrounding the boat show location here. Learn more about Florida manatee mortalities and get updates at FWC's website.


If you see manatees who could be affected by the boat show, please submit a report to Miami-Dade County DERM at [email protected] or by tagging them on Twitter at @MiamiDadeRER 


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