News Releases

Officers will be vigilant during Gasparilla

News Release

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Media contact: Officer Jorge Pino, 561-723-1417; Gary Morse, 863-648-3200

More than 60 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers will team up with crews from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office to keep local waterways safe during the upcoming Gasparilla celebration in downtown Tampa Jan. 29-30. Officers will provide educational information to boaters, conduct on-the-water safety inspections and target boaters operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Boating safety is a core responsibility for the FWC's Division of Law Enforcement. One look at the agency's large database on boating accidents makes the case that human error, and not equipment failure, causes the vast majority of boating accidents.

"Boating is a privilege many Tampa Bay area families enjoy, but it carries with it a serious responsibility to be safe," said FWC Capt. Roger Young. "Carelessness, inattention and violating a navigation rule are the primary causes of boating accidents."

To avoid problems created by careless operation and inattention, the FWC and Coast Guard recommend boaters adhere to the following safety practices:

  • Operate at a safe speed for the conditions present.
  • Maintain a proper lookout by constantly looking around the vessel.
  • Always wear a properly sized life jacket or personal floatation device, and have one for each person aboard.
  • Never overload a vessel.
  • Occupants should never move rapidly in a vessel and should secure their gear to prevent capsizing.
  • Always use a designated operator who has not been consuming alcohol or other drugs, which can impair judgment or reaction time.
  • Comply with all Coast Guard requirements for safety equipment.
  • Ensure navigational lights are operational before leaving the dock.
  • Avoid "blinding" other boat operators by improperly using searchlights.
  • Extinguish decorative lights after dark when going to and from the parade area.

"Turning off nonessential lighting helps preserve night vision, important for operating a boat safely after dark," said Young.

"Typically during Gasparilla there are a large number of boats within a confined space.  To promote safety on the water, the Coast Guard recommends that only experienced boaters participate in the parade," said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Brian Murphy.

Boaters are encouraged to file a float plan with a friend or family member, and to have a working VHF radio and EPIRB (emergency position-indicating radio beacon) on board.  Each passenger should be told what to do in case an emergency arises, including how to use a VHF radio, and be shown the location of life-saving equipment and first-aid supplies.

"Understanding and applying these rules and making sure your boat is well-equipped and properly maintained will help ensure you and your family enjoy the Gasparilla holiday," Murphy said.

More information on boating safety and the free Boat Smart safety course is available at

FWC Facts:
A crocodile cannot stick its tongue out.

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