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FWC Out in Force to Keep Tampa Bay Boaters Safe

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers conducted random boat safety gear checks on Tampa Bay, as many boaters hit the water on Labor Day.

What You Need To Know

  • FWC officers checking safety gear and looking for intoxicated boaters on Labor Day
  • Report dangerous boaters or safety violations by calling FWC’s 24-hour hotline at 1-888-404-3922.

“It’s extremely important to wear the life jacket,” FWC Officer Bryce Phillippi said. “We encourage you to wear it all the time, just in case an emergency happens.” 

Officer Phillippi said life jackets are the first thing he looks for when he pulls alongside a boat. Last year, 66 percent of boating deaths were due to drowning. 

“Make sure that they have enough for every person on the boat and it’s the appropriate size,” he explained. ​

Officer Phillippi said boaters should have those life jackets readily accessible. FWC officers also look for a sound producing device like a horn or whistle, a fire extinguisher, flares and a type IV throwable device. They’re all things boaters should check on before leaving their homes. ​

Spectrum Bay News 9 rode along with FWC officers on Monday as they patrolled Tampa Bay, pulling over a boat near the Courtney Campbell Causeway that was one life jacket short. Officer Phillippi gave the operator a warning.

“It’s not a citation. It’s a warning,” boater Jenny Perez said. “They’re doing their jobs. Safety is number one. So, we appreciate it.” 

“They were very close to the boat ramp. They were just coming out,” Phillippi said. “So, instead of writing them a citation, we just had them turn around, go back, and they can correct the problem. Pick up one more life jacket. Some boat ramps have loaner life jackets.”

FWC officers also look for impaired boaters.

“We want to encourage people before leaving the boat ramp to designate that sober operator,” Phillippi said. “Boating under the influence is dangerous and illegal.” 

Officer Phillippi said operators should also be very careful when passengers are getting on or off the boat.

“Make sure that the motor’s off when people are getting on and off the boat, especially if they’re going to be getting in from the water,” he said. “The motors are very dangerous. You can easily get cut by the propellers.”

You can report dangerous boaters or safety violations by calling FWC’s 24-hour hotline at 1-888-404-3922.

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