O.J. Simpson among alleged threats to manatees

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2002:

ORLANDO–Florida speedboaters smashed their 1999 record of
killing 82 manatees in one year on September 26, as the 83rd manatee
to be fatally injured in 2002 died under emergency care at Sea World
Orlando.
With three full months of 2002 remaining, manatee experts
expect that the total for this year may exceed 100, after three
years in a row of counts between 78 and 82. The average toll for the
fourth quarter over the past four years was 15.
The number of manatees killed by speedboats has risen ever
since records were first kept in 1974, but did not top 50 in a year
until 1989. Since then, the toll has soared –along with the number
of boats in the water.


Citing the all-time high aerial count of 3,276 manatees
statewide, recorded in 2001, boating spokespersons claim that the
manatee population has recovered from endangerment, and that the
death toll from all other causes is also rising, proportionate to
the total numbers of manatees.
The Florida Marine Research Institute on October 5
recommended removing manatees from the state endangered species list,
a step toward removing manatees from federal protection as well. The
FMRI was asked to review the status of manatees by the Florida Fish
and Wildlife Conservation Commission, in response to a petition for
delisting submitted by the Coastal Conservation Association, a
pro-fishing and boating group.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled in July 2002,
however, and affirmed on August 16, that under the 2001 settlement
of a lawsuit brought by the Save the Manatee Club, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service must expand manatee protections by November 1 to
reduce the boating death toll.
The USFWS had agreed to designate 16 new manatee sanctuaries
as part of the settlement, but had designated just two when in
January 2002 it suspended the effort at request of Florida Governor
Jeb Bush, brother of U.S. President George W. Bush. Assistant U.S.
Attorney General Thomas Sansonetti then sought to overturn the
settlement.
After Judge Sullivan twice upheld the settlement, the Fish
and Wildlife Service designated seven new manatee refuges, pledged
to name seven more, and designated 10 new go-slow channels in the
Intercoastal Waterway.
Save the Manatee Club director of science and conservation
Patti Thompson objected to Curtis Norman of the Miami Herald,
however, that none of the new go-slow channels are in southeast
Florida, a manatee collision hotspot.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission head Ken
Haddad meanwhile reversed a preliminary ruling that manatee safety
rules could not be waived during August to allow Columbia Pictures to
stage boat chases in Biscayne Bay and the Miami River while making
the film Bad Boys 2, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
The reversal came after the film producer reportedly met
directly with Jeb Bush. Manatee sightings interrupted the filming
seven times, wrote Julie Hauserman of the St. Petersburg Times, but
none were known to have been hurt.
Former football star and sportscaster O.J. Simpson pleaded
innocent on September 25 to allegedly speeding through a manatee
protection zone near Miami in a 30-foot yacht with his ex-girlfriend
Christie Prody on the Fourth of July.
Simpson was acquitted in 1994 of allegedly killing his wife,
Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, but a civil
jury later found him culpable for the murders and ordered him to pay
$33.5 million to their survivors.
“Simpson has not worked since then because any money he makes
could be seized to satisfy that judgement, which remains largely
unpaid,” the Associated Press reported after his Miami home was
searched in a December 2001 probe of alleged illegal drug activity.
Prody, Simpson’s yachting companion, did not respond to
offers of a plea bargain settlement of a cruelty charge for allegedly
allowing her pet cat to starve to death, Miami prosecutor Walter
Batt told county court judge Ana Maria Pando on August 21. The cat
was allegedly left unattended in Prody’s condominium for as long as
45 days.

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