FWC News Release

For immediate release: April 23, 2008
Contacts: (FWC-FWRI) Carli Segelson, 727-896-8626
(TBEP) Nanette O'Hara, 727-893-2765

Navigation software produced by Garmin is the first to feature manatee and homeland security zones in Tampa Bay – thanks to a partnership between Garmin, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program's Manatee Awareness Coalition (MAC).
The information is available on all new Garmin GPS chart plotters, as well as on the navigation chips (SD cards) boaters can buy to update their existing chart plotters.

Kipp Frohlich, leader of the FWC's Imperiled Species Management Section, said "This marks a breakthrough that can save a lot of manatees. We tried unsuccessfully for years to get any mapping company to put the zones in their map covers. Garmin stepped up to the plate and did it."

Boaters using the updated electronic charts will see manatee zone boundaries highlighted as they scroll over portions of Tampa Bay where slow speed zones have been established, such as Old Tampa Bay, and the Manatee River. Homeland security zones – including those around MacDill Air Force Base and the Port of Tampa – also are displayed on the chart plotter. In addition, a pop-up window tells boaters whether the area is idle speed, slow speed or no-entry, and also whether speed restrictions are seasonal or year-round.

The Garmin product is the first to show manatee zones anywhere in Florida. Currently, only manatee and security zones in Tampa Bay are available, but Garmin expects to add zones in other Florida waterways to future software updates.

The pilot project in Tampa Bay was a joint effort of Garmin, the FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) and MAC. Mapping experts from FWRI and MAC members began discussing the concept more than a year ago and approached several Electronic Navigation Chart manufacturers with the idea. Garmin is the first, and so far only, company to incorporate the information in their GPS chart plotters. The digital files showing the zones were provided by FWRI.

With an increasing number of boaters using GPS units aboard their vessels, MAC members hope that showing the manatee speed zones on the units will help boaters more easily identify when they enter a manatee zone. Knowing precisely where the zones are, and how far they extend, enables boaters to help protect both manatees and the bay's shallow-water sea grass meadows.

The information is standard on all new Garmin GPSMAP units. Boaters may also purchase an SD card with updated navigational charts for the entire U.S. coast, the Bahamas and Intracoastal Waterways, including the speed and security zones in Tampa Bay, for $199, with a $125 refund upon return of the card to Garmin.