Seaplane pilots dispute proposed manatee refuge in Florida

The Seaplane Pilots Association is disputing the findings of an environmental assessment that led to a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a manatee refuge in Lee County, Florida.

The proposed refuge, which surrounds Pine Island and includes Estero Bay, is to take the place of a virtually identical state refuge eliminated by a recent court decision, according to Michael Volk, president of the Seaplane Pilots Association. However, unlike the state refuge, the proposed federal refuge will prohibit seaplane landings and takeoffs.

Based on existing mortality data and differences between other vessels and seaplanes, the Fish and Wildlife service could not expect more than one Manatee death due to seaplanes every 400 years within the proposed refuge, association officials say. With other vessel-related deaths numbering three every year, Volk argues that the seaplane prohibition could not be justified.

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