Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Boat-related mortalities and human impacts on the habitat are the two most important threats to the survival of the manatee. Both may be controlled through conservation efforts. A large number of perinatal deaths have been observed in recent years, but the extent of this problem, if a problem exists, is unknown.
The State now requires County Comprehensive Plans in 13 key Florida counties to include Manatee Protection Plans for reducing injuries and mortalities from boats, and plans for locating marinas in ways that reduce impacts on manatee habitat. Radio- and satellite-tracking continue to provide information on migration routes and essential manatee habitat. Research continues on food habits, energetics, population parameters, age-specific survival, and reproductive rates. Manatee sanctuaries at the Crystal River and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuges have been expanded. Rescue and rehabilitation of sick, injured, and orphaned manatees continues. Section 7 consultations with the Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, and Department of the Navy on a very large number of projects have been completed. Public education on the plight of the manatee has increased.
Law enforcement needs are growing as boat speed regulations are implemented, and explaining the seriousness of this issue to the judiciary will become increasingly important. Additional research will be needed on captive manatees to improve manatee rehabilitation techniques. A plan is needed to facilitate capture and care of injured or sick manatees in the event of a catastrophic episode of extremely cold weather or outbreak of red tide. A "soft-release" area within habitat on the Kennedy Space Center is needed to allow long-held manatees to adjust to the wild before release.
The Florida Department of Natural Resources received $105,000 in FY 1991 and $70,000 in FY 1992 for use in constructing a modern necropsy facility on the campus of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.
Army Corps of Engineers: The Corps has worked to minimize the impacts to manatees and their habitat from urban development, dredging and filling, and other development projects, and to eliminate deaths caused by water control and navigation locks. The Corps has also taken measures to eliminate structure-related mortality.
Florida Department of Natural Resources: This State agency has taken the lead in a salvage and necropsy program, minimizing vessel- and structure-related mortalities, developing comprehensive protection plans at the local government level, and mapping important manatee habitats and migration routes. The State has required the 13 counties experiencing the highest vessel-related mortality rates to develop site specific speed zones and comprehensive manatee protection plans.
Save the Manatee Club: This non-profit organization has taken the lead in expanding education and information activities and improving public awareness. The club has trained its members to present manatee education programs to schools and civic groups, and has developed travel displays for programs, schools, and festivals. Money from membership dues and State funding has supported several research projects and purchased equipment and supplies for other agencies and groups.
Original plan approved 4/15/80; revised 7/24/89.