2006-2007 Save the Manatee Trust Fund Annual Report
Florida law (§370.12(4)(b), Florida Statutes) requires that each year, by December 1, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) provide a report to the President of the Florida Senate and the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives on expenditures from the Save the Manatee Trust Fund (Trust Fund). This report covers the period from July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007.
The Trust Fund receives money from sales of manatee license plates and decals, boat registration fees, and voluntary donations. It is the primary funding source for the State's manatee-related research and conservation management activities. Revenues for Fiscal Year (FY) 2006-2007 totaled $3,307,331. Appropriations from the Trust Fund for the same period were $4,096,613.
Appropriations to FWC are provided to three divisions: the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, and the Division of Law Enforcement. In FY 2006-2007, manatee research activities accounted for $1,677,394 in expenditures; $1,008,823 was dedicated to manatee conservation management; and $146,197 was spent by law enforcement. Details of revenues, appropriations, and expenditures are shown in the pie charts that follow. This report provides brief summaries of accomplishments and descriptions of research projects and conservation and enforcement activities.
The Florida manatee is a native species found in all parts of the State. Protections for Florida manatees were first enacted in 1892. Today, they are protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act (§370.12(2), Florida Statutes). In addition, manatees are federally protected by both the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.
In 2006, FWC Commissioners voted to accept the results of a biological review panel that determined that the manatee qualifies as a threatened species under the State's listing rule. The uncertain future of critical warmwater habitat and the continued significant level of human-caused deaths contributed to the assessment that the manatee has a very high risk of future extinction (i.e., 'threatened,' as compared to 'endangered' which is defined as, "an imminent risk of extinction"). However, there are encouraging signs as well, and because of the protections that have been enacted over the years, manatees are more secure now than when they were added to the State's list of imperiled species in 1979. The most recent analysis shows that manatee numbers are growing in three out of four regions, with the exception of southwest Florida, where evidence suggests that estimates of adult survival are lower than in other regions.
At the direction of FWC Commissioners, staff began development of Florida's first ever Manatee Management Plan (Plan). Staff drafted the Plan with extensive public input that included multiple presentations to the Manatee Forum, a group of twenty-two stakeholder organizations. Thousands of additional public comments were received and considered during development of the Plan. The overall goal of the Manatee Management Plan is to remove the manatee from the State's imperiled species list and effectively manage the population in perpetuity throughout Florida by securing habitat and minimizing threats. The Commission approved a draft Manatee Management Plan in June 2006 and scheduled the final public hearing for late 2007. Once approved and implemented, the Manatee Management Plan will provide the framework for conserving manatees and sustaining habitat throughout its range in Florida.
Floridians can be proud of past efforts to protect and conserve manatees and it is encouraging that manatee numbers are growing in most areas of the State. However, there is still much to be done to recover this species. Human population growth in Florida will make achieving our conservation goals challenging. In addition, declining revenues to the Trust Fund and increasing costs associated with manatee conservation also create a somewhat uncertain future. FWC is taking steps to mitigate these losses, such as cost saving measures and a re-design of the manatee license plate that hopefully will renew interest and lead to an increase in sales. Provided there are sufficient state and federal resources, FWC is optimistic that Floridians, working together, can secure the long-term survival of the manatee, and that it will remain a treasured icon of Florida.