2021-2022 Save the Manatee Trust Fund Annual Report
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 (s.) 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, 2021 through June 30, 2022.
Through the long-term public support of the Trust Fund, the FWC actively implements science-based conservation programs and engages partnerships that are making a difference for manatees and habitat. 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. Over the past decade, the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) has experienced significant water quality degradation, leading to the repeated occurrence of harmful algal blooms and widespread loss of seagrass, the preferred food for manatees. An Unusual Mortality Event (UME) caused by starvation due to lack of forage in the IRL started in December 2020 and is ongoing on the Atlantic coast. The Atlantic region event is the 14th officially declared mortality event in Florida since 1996, roughly an event every other year over the past two decades. The IRL is central in manatee migration patterns on the Atlantic coast, and health effects of starvation and chronic malnutrition were documented in all of the Atlantic management region. This event is unprecedented, both in numbers and cause, and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) delegated authority to manage the response with a Unified Joint Command of USFWS and FWC in November 2021. During FY 2021-22, 589 carcasses (from all causes of death) were reported and 75 manatees were rescued (all causes) within this region. Sufficient recovery of the IRL and seagrass resources are not anticipated in the immediate future and therefore staff expect manatee winter mortality to remain high in the region. FWC and the USFWS partnered to lead proactive efforts including habitat restoration projects and implementation of a supplemental feeding trial. The supplemental feeding program aimed to reduce the negative health impacts of prolonged starvation and possibly reduce the numbers of deaths and manatees needing rescue. Please find more information on our FWC website:
Manatee Mortality Event Along The East Coast: 2020-2022 | FWC (myfwc.com).
The long-term impacts of such large-scale die-offs on the manatee population in Florida are not currently known. Investigating these events is key to understanding the cause, understanding potential impacts on the population as well as developing conservation measures that protect the species affected and the marine environment where the UME is taking place. To help address this, the FWC monitors multiple aspects of the manatee 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. 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 and are the focus of conservation work.
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 2021-2022 totaled $4,262,088. Appropriations from the Trust Fund for the same period were $4,089,957 with $313,310 provided for manatee research activities at Mote Marine Laboratory (Mote), and a service charge to General Revenue of $338,006 that most trust funds are required by law to pay. In FY 2021-2022, FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation expended $1,086,435 for conservation activities and the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute expended $1,960,830 on research and monitoring. Details of revenues, appropriations, and expenditures are shown on page 6 of this report.