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At what price: Expensive day trips on yachts with unlicensed pilots and poorly equipped vessels can quickly turned deadly.

Coronavirus in Florida

Fish and Wildlife adds boat capacity, distance restrictions in COVID-19 fight

The Commission has observed people violating social distancing practices.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) added new boating requirements Friday to reduce large gatherings and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Recreational vessels cannot carry more than 10 people or be within 50 feet of another vessel under the new order signed by the commission’s Executive Director, Eric Sutton. Any boat violating those regulations would be considered a “hazard to public safety.”

“The Commission has observed and received numerous reports from across the state that large numbers of vessels are congregating together in various locations across the state, tying up or anchoring close together, and individuals are often leaving their vessels and assembling closely in shallow water,” according to the order.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended people not gather in groups of 10 or more individuals to promote social distancing. Additionally, it recommends people should keep at least six feet apart from one another.

Sutton’s executive order is to last the duration of the coronavirus state of emergency, declared March 9.


The distance limitations do not apply to mooring fields, public or private marinas or any other permanently installed wet slips. While on the water, the restriction applies to vessels tied, rafted or moored together.

On Thursday, Sutton moved to close its Tallahassee offices to the public and to limit operations statewide to help facilitate social distances. Any licenses that would have expired in March or April were extended 30 days.

Florida now has more than 3,763 COVID-19 cases after the Department of Health confirmed more than 500 additional cases overnight. At least 54 people, aged 39 to 96, have died and 526 have been hospitalized.

On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed executive orders suspending vacation rentals and requiring travelers from Louisiana self-isolate for 14 days. Earlier in the week, he issued similar travel restrictions for travelers from the New York City area.

The Louisiana order also allows the Florida Highway Patrol and local law enforcement to set up checkpoints to screen people entering the state. DeSantis said he made the order at the behest of Panhandle leaders and that checkpoints would focus on the Gulf Coast area.

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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