September 16, 2011
You'll want to know and heed these laws.
Originally published in January 2010 print edition
You'll want to tread lightly in all of Florida's 41 Aquatic Preserves. Penalties are steep for tearing up seagrass beds.
In effect since July 1, 2009, boaters will now be cited for a blood-level or breath-alcohol level of 0.15 percent and above. The previous limit was 0.20. Penalties for boating under the influence are the same as for driving an automobile while impaired, by the way.
New laws are aimed to reduce the numbers of delinquent boats on Florida's waterways and banks.
To reduce the number of derelict boats littering Florida's waterways, and aid in tracking down their owners, any vessel operated, used or stored on state waters, unless lawfully stored at a dock or marina, must now be titled, registered and numbered. To avoid future legal difficulties, boat sellers should contact the local tax collector's office at the time of sale to make certain their name has been removed from the title and registration, just in case that boat later shows up abandoned in state waters.
It is now illegal to possess or operate a vessel with nonconforming or unapproved gasoline containers, or to transport gasoline in an unventilated or improperly ventilated compartment. Proper containers bear a federal approval stamp.
It is now illegal to place waterway markers which do not conform to the U.S. Aids to Navigation System, and individuals must possess a permit to do so. It is also unlawful for boaters to moor to government-placed markers except in emergency situations or with written consent of the owner.
Boaters who run aground on coral reefs are now required to notify the Department of Environmental Protection. Boaters who damage coral reefs are further required to cooperate with the DEP to remove their vessels and assess and restore the reef. To report a vessel grounding or other coral reef injury in southeast Florida, call (786) 385-3054.
Boaters who in the past plowed across shallow seagrass beds within Florida's Aquatic Preserves might likewise want to invest in a navigational chart and a pair of polarized sunglasses to prevent running aground. Following a brief focus period to educate boaters about the importance of protecting seagrass, law enforcement personnel can cite boaters who intentionally or carelessly scar seagrass beds within preserves. Information regarding seagrass protection will be posted on information markers at high-capacity boat ramps that access aquatic preserves, along with targeted mailouts to educate boaters.
Florida's 41 Aquatic Preserves encompass almost two million acres of vital habitat along the state's 8,400 miles of coastline.
For information on Florida's Aquatic Preserves or the Coral Reef Injury Prevention and Response Program, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal. FS