The Board of County Commissioners and its Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) are pleased to announce that the county’s Manatee Enhanced Patrol Program (MEPP) has received a 2012 National Association of Counties (NACO) Achievement Award.
The NACO awards program recognizes new and innovative methods to carry out county services and programs that improve service, achieve greater cost efficiency, provide better customer service, and/or help develop a better trained workforce.
ERM is charged with implementing a state-approved plan to protect the Florida manatee. Ongoing efforts to meet the plan’s goals include MEPP, a collaborative effort between county, state, and local law enforcement agencies to increase patrols in manatee protection speed zones. This provides safe havens for manatees as they traverse county waters in search of food and warm water.
Since the program began in 2008, officers from 10 local law enforcement agencies have logged 7,190 hours in addition to their regular patrols, made 10,259 educational contacts, and issued 691 manatee zone citations. The increased law enforcement presence improves speed zone compliance, reducing risks to manatees and boaters.
MEPP also provides an opportunity to train officers to assist the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) with the rescue of manatees injured by boats or that are in distress due to cold temperatures, illness, or disease. ERM, in cooperation with FWC, the Marine Animal Rescue Society, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection organizes manatee rescue workshops for marine officers and other first responders. Since the manatee rescue component was initiated in 2009, local law enforcement has provided critical assistance to FWC at a time when funding for trained rescuers has been cut back.
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