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The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit was established as a full-time unit in 1987 by then Sheriff Charles B. Wells. The Unit is responsible for approximately 150 miles of coastal shoreline patrol, as well as nearly 9,000 acres of freshwater lakes and ponds. The routine patrol area of the Marine Unit extends to 9 nautical miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. The Marine Unit members are also cross-certified Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers, and are empowered to enforce federal regulations far beyond the limits of State of Florida jurisdiction.

Aside from routine patrol duties for manatee zone and safety violations, the Marine Unit is also tasked with responding to boaters and vessels in distress and interdiction duties. Since expanding to current strength, the Unit has responded to at least 10 rescue missions where the person rescued would have suffered significant injury or perished without Marine Unit assistance. On the interdiction side, the Unit works regularly with multiple federal agencies on various interdiction missions ranging from drug smuggling to human trafficking.

The original Marine Unit consisted of 2 deputies who patrolled the waterways in 2 C-Hawk vessels. Since that time, the Unit has been expanded and updated to it’s current status in order to properly meet current environmental and population demands. The Marine Unit currently consists of three full-time certified deputies and one sergeant. The Unit operates five patrol vessels, each of which serve mission-specific purposes based on expected conditions such as tide height, wind, sea conditions, and the targeted patrol area. The current vessels are:

(2) 32’ Intrepid Marine Interceptors powered by twin supercharged 250 HP Mercury Verado outboard engines. These two vessels are the primary patrol vessels of the Unit due to their flexibility and long-range capabilities, having an operational range of over 300 nautical miles. Due to the critical nature of marine-based emergencies, these vessels are critical to the Unit operations because of their seaworthiness, long-range, and high-speed response capabilities. These vessels are able to respond to emergencies in weather and sea conditions that other vessels would not be able to navigate. They also serve as transport and insertion vessels for waterborne SWAT and Dive Team missions.

A 26’ Gausebuilt Unmarked vessel powered by a single supercharged 250 HP Mercury Verado outboard engine. This vessel serves as an additional patrol vessel, having the capability to respond to both shallow water and deep water incidents, as well as being utilized in unmarked, undercover enforcement operations.

A 19’ Caroline Skiff 198 DLV vessel. This vessel is specially rigged and utilized for shallow water operations where it can operate in waters as shallow as 8”.

A 15’ Johnboat. The Johnboat is utilized in lakes, rivers, and backyard ponds.

Each of the vessels and Marine Unit deputies are equipped with several pieces of safety gear. This gear includes foul weather gear, throwable life saving devices, personal emergency position indicating radio beacons, flares, helmets, night vision gear, portable spotlights, inflatable life jackets, GPS/Radar units, and VHF radios.

The Marine Unit regularly works with several other federal, state, and local agencies. These agencies include the United States Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Patrol, US Drug Enforcement Agency, FBI, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Offices, and the cities of Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Palmetto, Holmes Beach, Sarasota, and Longboat Key.

The Marine Unit’s mission is to increase awareness to boating safety regulations and reduced speed/manatee zones in an effort to provide a safe boating environment for all citizens and visitors of Manatee County

Online Resources

The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators is a national nonprofit organization that works to develop public policy for recreational boating safety.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is one of the Department of Homeland Security’s largest components. It’s mission is keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the US. It’s also responsible of securing and facilitating trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of US regulations, including immigration and drug laws.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the Manatee County Port Authority have entered into a cooperative agreement to establish a community based watch program to assist in the enforcement and implementation of a security zone on and around a dredge spoil island near Port Manatee known as Manbirtee Key.

The U.S. Coast Guard is one of the five armed forces of the United States and the only military organization within the department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard Protects the maritime economy and the environment, defends our maritime borders, and save those in peril.

US Power Squadrons organized in 1914, is a non profit, educational organization dedicated to making boating safer and more enjoyable by teaching classes in seamanship, navigation and related subjects

Boating Safety. The Boater Resource Center is designed to be a single source of boating safety information for the recreational boater.

Florida Wildlife Commission, managing fish and wildlife resources for their long term wellbeing and the benefit of people.

FWC Derelict Vessel: http://www.myfwc.com/boating/waterway/derelict-vessels/

FWC Boating Regulations: http://www.myfwc.com/boating/boating-regulations/

FWC Boating Safety Equipment Requirements: http://www.myfwc.com/boating/safety-education/boat-safety-equipment/

FWC Boating Safety and Education: http://www.myfwc.com/boating/safety-education/

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