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2013-2014 Save the Manatee Annual Trust Fund Report

2013-2014 Save the Manatee Annual Trust Fund Report


Executive Summary

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), per section 379.2431(4)(b), Florida Statutes (F.S.). The Trust Fund is the primary source of funding for the State's manatee-related research and conservation activities. As required by Florida law, 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. This report covers the period from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014.

Unparalleled manatee mortality levels reported last year notably decreased following the cessation of the related Brevetoxicosis (red tide) event on the southwest coast of Florida in spring 2013. FWC staff prepared an official request for the National Working Group of Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events to declare the status of the mortality event as over. The Working Group approved the FWC closure request for the Manatee Brevetoxicosis Repeat Mortality Event for southwestern Florida, however, although reduced in number, cases associated with the Manatee Unusual Morality Event (UME) declared for the central Florida East Coast continue to be reported and the UME status remains open. The investigation into the associated cause for mortality is ongoing. Agency staff are working to complete the final review of several hundred mortality records generated as a result of recent mortality events in addition to baseline and ongoing mortality.  The effort to document and better understand threats and stressors to the manatee population is critical in order to recognize and inform needed conservation steps.

Current management efforts are focused on meeting with selected counties to begin the process of revisiting existing Manatee Protection Plans so they can be updated where necessary and continue to provide the best information available to local governments. Information from research related to manatee habitat is growing along with efforts to restore and conserve manatee habitat. Multiple years of monitoring the repowering of three east coast power plants will be winding down over the next few years. The information collected during the monitoring of these warm-water sites has, and will continue to provide new insights into manatee behavior as it relates to warm-water habitat. This information will be very useful to the program’s efforts to map out a long-term plan to address warm-water habitat. Although power plant discharges will continue to provide warm-water habitat in several areas of the State, at some point in the future FWC expects this to change, and planning for that new landscape is an important effort in securing the manatee population for future generations.

Parallel efforts by the program have focused on restoration of manatee warm water habitat associated with springs.  FWC staff have partnered on various spring restoration efforts that have resulted in the removal of accumulated sediments, replanting of submerged vegetation, and stabilizing spring shorelines. These efforts not only benefit manatee habitat, but habitat for many other native species and for Floridians who enjoy the natural springs of Florida.

These activities are possible because of the funding of the Save the Manatee Trust Fund. The Trust Fund receives money from sales of manatee license plates and decals, boat registration fees, and voluntary donations.  Revenues for FY 2013-2014 totaled $3,743,905.  Appropriations from the Trust Fund for the same period were $4,280,201, with $325,000 provided for manatee research activities at Mote Marine Laboratory, and a service charge to General Revenue of $258,242 that most trust funds are required by law to pay. In FY 2013-2014, FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation expended $979,927 for conservation activities and the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute expended $1,939,917 on research and monitoring. Details of revenues, appropriations, and expenditures are shown on page seven of this report.