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2017-2018 Save the Manatee Trust Fund Annual Report

View the 2017-2018 Save the Manatee Trust Fund Annual Report

Executive Summary

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is pleased to submit the 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, annually. This report covers the period from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.

Through the long-term public support of the Trust Fund, critical information gained from the FWC’s research and monitoring efforts continues to provide conservation managers and the public with reliable information needed to guide current and future conservation actions. The FWC’s guiding conservation goal for the Florida manatee is to effectively manage the wildlife resource in perpetuity throughout Florida. In order to accomplish this goal, the species must recover from a threatened status and be effectively managed so that manatees can endure future impacts that can affect their population including: large-scale die-offs from red tide and cold stress, human-related impacts and continued degradation and loss of important habitats. As with all species, future resiliency is associated with population size and distribution, growth rate, health, and habitat quality. Together these factors will impact the ability of manatees to cope with future changes. The FWC and partners continue to monitor the manatee population and essential habitat using innovative, rigorous, scientific methods to better understand population resiliency as well as susceptibilities. For example, information gathered from the FWC’s manatee rescue and necropsy program provides a window for the public to better understand the state of manatee health and vulnerabilities. During this report period, staff prepared a report for review by a federally mandated panel of experts, referred to as the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Morality Events. The Working Group later declared a Repeat Mortality Event (RME) involving red tide and manatees in southwest Florida. This was the 12th officially declared mortality event in Florida (and ninth related to red tide) since 1996, roughly an event every other year over the past two decades. What will the longer-term impacts of such large-scale die-offs be on the manatee population in Florida? Mathematical models help to integrate various streams of information about the population including: prevalence of certain reasons for death, adult survival rates, and reproduction that, when taken in context of each other, improve our understanding of population dynamics. With timely information like this, managers can adapt management strategies to help mitigate impacts to the manatee population, furthering our efforts to maintain a resilient manatee population.

These activities are possible because of the funding of the Trust Fund. The Trust Fund receives money from sales of manatee license plates and decals, boat registration fees, and voluntary donations. Revenues for FY 2017-2018 totaled $3,824,172. Appropriations from the Trust Fund for the same period were $ 4,133,413, with $325,000 provided for manatee research activities at Mote Marine Laboratory (Mote), and a service charge to General Revenue of $307,598 that most trust funds are required by law to pay. In FY 2017-2018, FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation expended $1,006,000 for conservation activities and the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute expended $1,830,895 on research and monitoring. Details of revenues, appropriations, and expenditures are shown on page 6 of this report.