2005–2006 Save the Manatee Trust Fund Annual Report
This is the annual status report on expenditures from the Save the Manatee Trust Fund (STMTF). Each year, the report is provided to the President of the Florida Senate and the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.
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) 2005-2006 totaled $3,446,849. Appropriations for the same period were $4,190,509, with $325,000 provided for manatee research activities at Mote Marine Laboratory and a service charge to General Revenue of $99,858 that most trust funds are required by law to pay.
Expenditures from the STMTF were made by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) manatee programs: $423,569 by the Division of Law Enforcement (LE) for manatee-related patrols, $907,178 for species management activities within the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation's Imperiled Species Management Section (ISM); and $1,671,789 for research activities conducted by the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI). Details of revenues, appropriations, and expenditures are shown in the pie charts below. The report includes budgetary analyses for individual research and management program efforts, followed by summaries of the work performed.
The Florida manatee is native to Florida's coastal and riverine waters and has been protected in Florida since 1892. Current state efforts to recover the population are guided by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act [Subsection 370.12 (2), Florida Statutes] and the federal Florida Manatee Recovery Plan of 2001. Federally, both the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act protect manatees. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) lists the manatee as an endangered species. During 2005-06 the FWC proposed to reclassify the manatee from endangered to threatened status based on the recommendations of a Biological Review Panel using the FWC listing rule (68A-27.0012, F.A.C.) However, the FWC listing process requires development and Commission approval of a Management Plan before the manatee can be reclassified. In 2006 a FWC team was chartered to begin development of the management plan. The FWC anticipates taking the first draft of the plan to the Commission in 2007. Once approved and implemented this management plan will provide the framework for conserving manatees and sustaining habitat throughout its range in Florida.
During FY 2005-06 the Manatee Forum, a group of 22 key stakeholders, met on three occasions to discuss a variety of controversial aspects of manatee conservation. Through this process, FWC hopes to establish areas of common ground, identify problems or conflicts, and develop potential solutions. The Executive Director of FWC and the Director of Region Four of the USFWS were instrumental in creating the Manatee Forum and continue to actively participate in Forum meetings.
Through partnerships with federal and state agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations and the business community, FWC is working to ensure that there will be a viable manatee population in Florida's future. 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. Declining revenues to the Save the Manatee Trust Fund and increasing costs associated with manatee conservation due to inflation also create an uncertain future. FWC is taking steps to increase license plate sales, has instituted cost saving measures, and may be seeking other remedies. Providing these efforts result in sufficient long-term state funding dedicated to manatee conservation, FWC is optimistic that manatees will continue to move toward recovery and will remain a unique and treasured part of Florida.