Dispute Over Kings Bay

Summary of US Fish and Wildlife Service Final Kings Bay Rule

On March 16, 2012, the USFWS announced the Final Kings Bay Rule establishing a manatee protection area in all of King’s Bay including its tributaries and connected waters solely to prevent the “take” of one or more manatees.

This rule was imposed on citizens of Crystal River and all visitors to the area despite the objections of every elected official at the city and county level, and the opposition of our state senator, state representative, and our U.S. Congressman Rich Nugent.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wrote to the USFWS requesting them to reconsider this rule and work with the community. All of this opposition was ignored as the USFWS imposed the rule anyway.

The local community and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission have done an exemplary job of protecting manatees in Kings Bay and the Manatee Protection Plan has even been incorporated into Citrus County’s Comprehensive Plan. There is no substantial evidence for the federal regulatory takeover of these waters. The facts and evidence do not support this federal action. A few of these facts are provided below.

The entire Final Rule can be read at: http://federalregister.gov/a/2012-06055

  • Citrus County was the first in the state to adopt a manatee protection plan.
  • Citrus County is recognized as having one of the top two manatee protection plans in the state.
  • Citrus County has always exceeded the Endangered Species Act success goal of 90% annual adult manatee survival rate. In Citrus County, the annual adult survival rate has been 94-96%.
  • Only .2% of all recorded Florida manatee-watercraft related mortalities were found in Kings Bay. That is 16 in nearly 40 years.
  • There is no evidence that these watercraft-manatee injuries/mortalities actually occurred in the tidally influenced Kings Bay.
  • There have been ZERO manatee watercraft related injuries in Kings Bay during recreational speed days since 2008.
  • There have been only three cold stress related manatee mortalities discovered in Kings Bay in the past 10 years. There is also no evidence that these actually occurred in Kings Bay.
  • The USFWS has issued ZERO manatee harassment citations in the past two years – information that required a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain. Further historical citation data was not provided.
  • Analysis of USFWS GIS data shows an average of less than 45 manatees in the 600+ acres of Kings Bay and its associated canals and tributaries on any given day from May-August in the past ten years – and those were primarily located along river edges and in canals – not in the recreational boating areas.
  • The Kings Bay manatee population in January, 2012 was 546. By March, 2012 the population had dropped to 26. Once the Gulf water temperatures are warmer than the 72 degrees in Kings Bay, manatees migrate back into the Gulf of Mexico to breed, where food supply is more plentiful and to migrate to other areas – ranging from Texas to the Caribbean islands.
  • There is an insufficient food supply for the vastly increased manatee population in Kings Bay as saltwater intrusion and lyngbya algae blooms have virtually eliminated hydrilla and other water plants. Establishing a manatee refuge in a habitat without enough food to support the wintering manatee population just does not make sense.
  • The take of one manatee” is the criteria that was used to justify increased federal manatee regulations in King’s Bay. Which Florida community will be next? Is any coastal region in the State of Florida safe from future federal takeover by USFWS? Will threats of legal action by various environmental activist groups based on “the take of one manatee” affect commerce, port activity, housing developments, marinas, or commercial activity?

SUPPORT OUR EFFORTS TO ‘SAVE CRYSTAL RIVER’ AND ENCOURAGE YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TO REMOVE FEDERAL CONTROL FROM KING’S BAY BEFORE YOUR COMMUNITY IS NEXT.

FLORIDA COMMUNITIES WORKING WITH FLORIDA’S GOVERNMENT CAN PROTECT FLORIDA MANATEES. NO FEDERAL REGULATORY CONTROL IS WANTED OR REQUIRED.