2007-2008 Save the Manatee Trust Fund Annual Report
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is pleased to submit this annual report on the expenditures from the Save the Manatee Trust Fund (Trust Fund). The report covers the period from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008. As required by Florida law, §379.2431(4)(b), Florida Statutes (F.S.), the report is provided to the President of the Florida Senate and the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives by December 1, each year. The Trust Fund receives money from sales of manatee license plates and decals, boat registration fees, and voluntary donations. It is the primary source of funding for the state's manatee-related research and conservation activities. Revenues for Fiscal Year (FY) 2007-2008 totaled $3,760,716. Appropriations from the Trust Fund for the same period were $3,849,763.
In FY 2007-2008, the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation expended $989,528 for management and conservation activities and the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute expended $1,761,403 on research and monitoring. In the pages that follow, we provide details of these expenditures and highlight specific accomplishments.
The Florida manatee is native to the rivers and coastal waters of the state. First protected legislatively in Florida 1892, today it is protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act (§379.2431(2), F.S.) and federally by both the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.
In December 2007, FWC Commissioners voted to approve the first state Manatee Management Plan (Plan). A FWC team developed the Plan over the course of 18 months and received extensive stakeholder and public review. The Manatee Forum, a group of 22 stakeholders, met to discuss the Plan on two occasions. The FWC received over 15,000 written or email comments on the Plan. At the December 2007 Commission meeting, representatives from fishing groups, marine industries, and conservation groups all supported the Plan and recommended approval; the Plan was unanimously approved by the Commission. At the same meeting, the Commission decided not to reclassify the manatee as threatened as had been proposed by an independent scientific review panel. This was, in part, based on concerns expressed by the public, scientists, and some environmental groups, that the Commission's listing rule was inadequate. Instead, the Commissioners elected to maintain the manatee's classification as endangered and directed staff to reexamine the process used to classify imperiled species and report back with options for possible changes.
The goal of the Manatee Management Plan is to remove the manatee from the state imperiled species list and effectively manage the population in perpetuity by securing habitat and minimizing threats. The Plan includes many tasks that are deemed necessary in order to conserve manatees, with a planning horizon of five years. While there is considerable public debate on where the manatee should be placed on the state imperiled species list, and specifically, debate on what it should be called - endangered or threatened - there is also strong consensus and agreement on the importance of protecting and conserving this unique Florida native species. The Plan lays out a course of action that, if fully implemented, will secure the long-term survival of the manatee. In future years, this annual report will serve as a way to measure our progress in implementing the conservation measures called for in the Plan. While many challenges remain, the FWC is optimistic about the future of the manatee in Florida.