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Miami Boat Show Move In 2022 Could Impact Manatees

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - The Miami International Boat Show is planning to move from Virginia Key to Downtown Miami Shore next year, and that's causing concern for the safety of manatees.

"I think the board considered our recommendation but chose under the circumstances to issue the approval for them to operate sea trials at least for one year," Lee Hefty, Miami-Dade County Division of Environmental Resources Management Director said.

Hefty tells us the show is expanding into an area that DERM did not recommend specifically for sea trials.  It is not against the expansion entirely, it just wants to see it out of manatee habitat.  The show used to have approved, designated areas near the Miami Marine Stadium.

"They had a plan for sea trials and we had approved it a couple years ago and just wanted to make sure they weren't going to drive the boats into the sensitive areas," he said.

Yet, Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners approved temporary slips and allowed sea trials for 150 vessels right in the area identified as central manatee habitat for the move. While the show brings in money to the area, the species has been struggling.

"More than a thousand manatees have died this year alone, that's really from the severe loss of seagrass due to algal bloom which is a result of too much nutrient going into the water from human waste," Pat Rose, Save the Manatee Exec. Dir. said.

The event is 4 days, but that could be enough to disrupt and stress the manatee population.

"We'll have conditions in the permit to require to take logs of every sea trial they make when they're coming when they're going," Hefty explained.

DERM will also require that boats slow down if a manatee is spotted. In the long term, however, the plan is to keep the show from coming back to the same exact spot.

"Through the course of this coming year, working with the applicant on another location in the bay that would be suitable for those kinds of sea trial," he said.

We reached out to representatives with the boat show, they told us, they will do their part to uphold commitments to wildlife.

Andrew Doole, President of U.S. Boat Shows with Informa Markets said the following:

"For over 80 years, the Discover Boating Miami International Boat Show has been committed to environmental stewardship and sustainability, especially as it relates to sensitive wildlife that calls Miami-Dade's waters home."

"The new show location at the Miami Beach Convention Center and Downtown Miami will minimize impacts to Biscayne Bay while adhering to the Manatee Protection Plan that we developed for the boat show."

"The 2022 boat show will require that all visitors and exhibitors abide by our strict practices as it relates to sea trials at Sea Isle Marina. We stand prepared to work alongside Miami-Dade County and its environmental partners to produce a successful show while welcoming back the global boating community to South Florida."

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