2001-2002 Save the Manatee Trust Fund Annual Report
This is the annual status report on expenditures from the Save the Manatee Trust Fund (STMTF). This report is provided to the President of the Florida Senate and the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives each year.
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 2001-2002 totaled $3,869,710.
Appropriations for the same fiscal year were approximately $4,377,922, which includes $371,000 provided to Division of Law Enforcement; and $272,701 to the Advisory Council on Environmental Education. Details are presented in the accompanying pie charts (page 7).
Expenditures from the STMTF were made for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissions (FWC) manatee program: $1,698,898 for research activities coordinated by the Florida Marine Research Institute in St. Petersburg; $1,139,167 for management activities within the Office of Environmental Services' Bureau of Protected Species Management (BPSM). Budgetary breakdowns for individual program units under both the research and management efforts are included followed by summaries of the work performed at the FMRI and the BPSM.
The Florida manatee is native to Florida's coastal and riverine waters and is listed by both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the FWC as an 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 2001. In addition, the manatee is protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
During the past year, increased attention was given to assessing the status of the manatee population. A workshop was convened in April that brought together experts from around the world to review the most recent manatee data. In addition, the FWC began a Biological Status Review, which included a Population Viability Analysis. Based on these most recent analyses, it appears that the total manatee population in Florida has increased over the past 30 years. In particular, strong population growth in sub-populations such as Florida's northwest coast (including Crystal River) and the upper St. Johns River, have been well documented. Population trends in other areas such as the Atlantic Coast and southwest Florida are less clear. While there is evidence that these areas have also experienced growth over the long-term, the most recent trends are cause for concern. In particular, survival rates in Southwest Florida suggest that the population may be stable or may have begun to decline in that region. Nevertheless, the FWC remains cautiously optimistic about the manatee's future in Florida. We believe that the focus of management over the past three decades-to reduce human-related injury and death, and to protect habitat-has been a major factor in realizing positive population growth. Provided that this basic approach is continued, the long-term survival of this species is promising.