Fish and Wildlife adds boat capacity, distance restrictions in COVID-19 fight
At what price: Expensive day trips on yachts with unlicensed pilots and poorly equipped vessels can quickly turned deadly.

parti boat
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.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government 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 [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


3 comments

  • Robert Hogan

    March 29, 2020 at 8:45 am

    Does the Executive Director of FWC have the constitutional legal authority to sign an Executive order? I thought only the Governor has this authority.

  • Jack Webb

    March 29, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    I understand your concern and the need for a proactive approach to this. And I would love to see all the inconsiderate idiots (like those in your photo and in the photos of the snowbirds overrunning the state over Spring Break) be arrested for public endangerment. But your proclamation, as stated, is totally absurd.

    Think about it. If you live on a waterway and happen to have 2 (or more) boats on your OWN dock, or you happen to have a neighbor with a boat that’s within 50′ of your own, or if you are retired and live aboard your boat in a public marina (like me)… how do you determine which boat(s) need to be sunk, or cut loose to drift away? Or which violators get shot or arrested?

    If you own one or more “boat” (which, by definition, would include canoes, kayaks, dinghies, etc.) how do you decide which to sink or burn or ticket? Since your mandate lacks specification as to whether or not this also includes boats in storage, how does a storage yard determine which will be burned or destroyed when at least 2 out of every 3 boats in a storage yard is within 50′ of the third in each direction (probably 3 out of 4).

    Wouldn’t it have been much more logical (and effective) to have prevented the thousands of [possibly infected] people entering Florida during “Spring Break”, or more recently by the thousands from New York City, New Orleans, etc.

    I don’t question the logic of reasonable restrictions, but this is clearly another example of “too little, too late, and too illogical”. Mandates are clearly required to control those who have no regard for the safety of others. But please, quit “shooting from the hip” and give a little more thought to your mandates and actions. (Perhaps it might be wise to pass this along to “The Top”.)

Comments are closed.


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