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    Cut! Manatees keep cameras from rolling

    A waiver allowed filming of a chase in their waters. But the sea cows keep making cameos.

    By JULIE HAUSERMAN, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published August 3, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- Endangered manatees popped up in waters near a high-speed boat chase at least seven times this week during filming of the action picture Bad Boys 2 in Miami. Cameras had to stop rolling until the sea cows were safe.

    Last week, Columbia Pictures persuaded the state to give it an "emergency waiver" of state manatee protection rules so it could run high-speed boat chases in slow-speed manatee zones in Biscayne Bay and the Miami River. In the movie, actors Will Smith and Martin Lawrence play Miami cops.

    The state initially turned down Columbia Pictures' request to run fast boats in the manatee zones, saying there was no proof of an emergency to waive state rules.

    Columbia said the emergency was money. Millions of dollars are at stake every time production changes schedule, the company argued. And the film would pump millions of dollars into Miami's economy, the company said.

    After the film's producer met with Gov. Jeb Bush, the state changed position and decided to allow the fast boats in manatee areas after all. The public was not given a chance to comment.

    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission head Ken Haddad said he wasn't pressured to make the switch, and did so only after Columbia Pictures agreed to certain conditions.

    Among them: Eight observers in the air, on boats, and on land to spot manatees before speeding boats could harm them.

    "There were plenty of eyes on the water," said David Arnold, chief of protected species management for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The moviemakers, he said, "were able to get a number of shots."

    Columbia's emergency waiver lasts through August, Arnold said.

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