2002-2003 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 conservation 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 fiscal year (FY) 2002-2003 totaled $3,795,365.
Appropriations for the same FY were approximately $3,992,736. Of that, $3,534,652 was provided to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for research, conservation, and enforcement. Mote Marine Laboratory received $325,000 for additional research, and the Advisory Council for Environmental Education received $133,084. Details are presented in the pie charts at right.
Expenditures by the FWC from the STMTF included $1,682,979 for research activities coordinated by the FWC Florida Marine Research Institute (FMRI) in St. Petersburg; $1,155,999 for conservation activities within the FWC Office of Environmental Services' Bureau of Protected Species Management (BPSM); and $372,875 to the FWC Division of Law Enforcement. Budgetary breakdowns for individual program elements under both the research and conservation 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. Manatees have been protected in Florida since 1892. Federally, both the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act protect manatees. Current state efforts to recover the population are guided by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act [Section 370.12(2), Florida Statutes] and the federal Florida Manatee Recovery Plan of 2001. In FY 2002-2003, the FWC's manatee program focused on actions related to a settlement agreement from a lawsuit brought by Save the Manatee Club et al. in 2001. These activities involved (1) increasing the number of FWC law enforcement officers and the amount of time spent enforcing manatee zones in Florida's waterways, (2) completing a comprehensive report by FMRI analyzing manatee use of the Caloosahatchee River and surrounding areas, and (3) promulgating rules regulating boat speed and access in six counties to reduce risk to manatees.
The FWC staff members' also focused on completing a biological status review of the Florida manatee to assess its proper classification on the state of Florida's imperiled species list. The final report, available at www.floridamarine.org, is the result of a complex scientific process that included compilation of the best available manatee data and development of a population viability analysis model to project the probability of a population decline and extinction in the next 45 and 100 years. The estimate of growth rate for the southwest subpopulation is slightly negative; although, there is statistical uncertainty surrounding the estimate. This means that researchers cannot determine with certainty whether the population is slowly increasing, roughly stable, or in definite decline. As reported in the final biological status review, of major concern is that model simulations indicate that the southwest subpopulation shows negative growth under conditions of constant carrying capacity and constant survival. Under this scenario, approximately half of the current estimated population in southwest Florida is projected to disappear within the next 45 years. Even assuming the most optimistic scenario of constant habitat conditions and no deaths caused by red tide or cold, the projected population trajectory is downward for the southwest region.
Although great strides have been made toward recovering the Florida manatee, there are still human-related and natural factors that could negatively affect the long-term survival of the species. With continuing conservation, law enforcement, outreach, and research, the FWC hopes to ensure that there will be a robust manatee population in Florida's future.