1999-2000 Save the Manatee Trust Fund Annual Report
Welcome to the annual status report on expenditures from the Save The Manatee Trust Fund (STMTF). This report is prepared each year and is provided to the President of the Florida Senate and the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. The purpose of this report is to inform the reader about the types of activities performed during the past fiscal year with the funds appropriated from the STMTF by the Florida legislature. The Florida manatee is a true native to Florida's coastal and riverine waters and a federally listed endangered species. Florida has protected manatees since 1892. Current state efforts to recover the population are guided by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978 and the federally approved Florida Manatee Recovery Plan of 1995. The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act declared the state to be a refuge and sanctuary for the manatee and subsequent amendments have given the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) a wide range of responsibilities. The Recovery Plan lists 126 separate tasks that need to be accomplished. Many of these tasks are addressed through a cooperative effort between federal, state, and local governments.
Florida's manatees typically average around 8-10 feet in length and weigh around 1,000 pounds. The largest manatees may reach 13 feet in length and weigh over 3,500 pounds. Despite their large size, manatees can be difficult to see in the wild. Manatees eat a variety of aquatic plants and may be seen near natural or artificial fresh water sources. Female manatees are pregnant for 12-14 months and usually give birth to a single calf measuring about 3-4 feet in length. The calves remain with their mothers for up to two years. Manatees are killed or injured by a variety of human-related causes (e.g., colliding with watercraft, being crushed in water control gates and boat locks, and becoming entangled in fishing gear). Manatees also die as a result of exposure to harmful algal blooms (red tide),the effects of cold water, and natural disease. Manatee habitat loss or degradation is also of concern, including future changes in artificial warm water refugia upon which many have become dependent.
Funding for the State's manatee related research and management activities is provided primarily from the STMTF, which receives money from sales of manatee license plates and decals, boat registration fees, and voluntary donations. Revenues for FY 1999-2000 totaled $4,723,446. Expenditures for the same fiscal year were approximately $4,611,200. Details are presented in the accompanying pie charts in this report. The 1999-2000 expenditures were distributed over the FWC's research, management, and environmental education programs, as well as to three oceanaria facilities that participate in the rescue and rehabilitation of manatees. Research activities coordinated by the Florida Marine Research Institute (FMRI) in St. Petersburg totaled $1,634,746. Management activities within the Bureau of Protected Species Management (BPSM) totaled $1,166,263. Mote Marine Laboratory received $600,000, oceanaria received $400,000, and $499,500 were allocated in Environmental Education Grants. Budgetary breakdowns for individual program units for both the research and management efforts are provided followed by summaries of the work performed at the FMRI and the BPSM.
The past year brought both good and bad news concerning the fight to save this endangered species. On the positive side, new data analyses show that manatee populations in two areas of the state, northwest Florida and the upper St. Johns River, have been expanding at a healthy pace. Less encouraging however were data for the Atlantic Coast, where concerns exist that the population in this area is neither stable nor increasing. The number of manatees killed by watercraft was the highest ever recorded during the months of February, March, and April 2000. The FWC response (detailed in this report) included increased law enforcement activities and expanded public outreach. While it is sometimes necessary to temporarily divert resources in response to unexpected problems, the FWC recognizes that it will take a long-term strategy and continued resolve to recover this endangered species.