FWC prioritizes manatee-saving efforts

Manatee swimming in Crystal River
Manatee swimming in Crystal River
Thierry Eidenweil via Shutterstock

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continue to investigate a high level of manatee mortalities and respond to manatee rescues along the Atlantic coast of Florida.

According to an FWC press release, responding to live manatees in need of rescue is a top priority for wildlife agencies and partners from the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership. FWC manatee biologists have been working hard to respond to public reports of distressed manatees and rescue manatees that need assistance (preliminary rescue summaries). The FWC takes manatee conservation seriously by actively implementing science-based conservation measures that are making a difference for manatees and habitat.

The Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events has confirmed these manatee mortalities have met the criteria to be an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared it an UME, the release stated. Moving forward, the FWC will continue to coordinate closely with our federal partners, participate in the investigative team, and conduct analyses related to the cause of the UME. Working with these partners, FWC staff will explore both short- and long-term and small- and large-scale response options, including aquatic habitat restoration.

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According to the release, environmental conditions in portions of the Indian River Lagoon remain a concern. Researchers have attributed this UME to starvation due to the lack of seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon. In recent years, poor water quality in the Lagoon has led to harmful algal blooms and widespread seagrass loss. Rescuing manatees remains a priority and since Jan. 1, 2021, FWC and partners have rescued over 130 manatees statewide.

Locally, manatees are returning to area waterways along the Suwannee River and Manatee Springs State Park in Chiefland as they migrate statewide to the warmer waters during the winter. 

FWC will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with our partners.Ways you can help manatees:

  • Call FWC’s Wildlife Alert toll-free number at 1-888-404-3922 or #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone if you see a sick, injured, dead or tagged manatee.
  • Boaters will find them easier to spot if they wear polarized sunglasses and keep a lookout for signs of manatees such as the circular “footprints” they trace on the top of the water or their snouts sticking up out the water.
  • Look, but don’t touch manatees. Keep your distance when boating, even if you are steering a canoe, kayak or paddleboard. Be a good role model for others so that they learn how to watch and enjoy manatees without disturbing the animals.
  • The plate you buy matters; support FWC manatee rescues and research. The next time you renew your tag, consider a “Save the Manatee” license plate.
  • Show your support for manatee conservation by proudly displaying a manatee decal. These high-quality stickers feature original artwork and are available from your local Tax Collector’s office with a $5 donation.

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