Struggling manatees to get $17M in support

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday his commitment to enhancing and expanding manatee rescue and rehabilitation efforts by pledging an increase of $17 million over the current budget on Monday.

DeSantis made the announcement from the Manatee Critical Care Center at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens following a year where 1,110 manatees died, prompting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to declare an unusual mortality event in January. 

“This historic funding will support important restoration efforts across the state to benefit our manatees and Florida’s natural environment,” DeSantis said at the press conference. “My administration will continue working to find new and innovative ways to support our native species, like the manatee, so that the generations to come can experience Florida’s natural resources.”

Current and new funding totals more than $30 million and includes the following:

  • $20 million to enhance and expand the network of manatee acute care facilities, restore access to springs, provide habitat restoration in manatee concentrated areas, expand manatee rescue and recovery efforts, and implement pilot projects like the supplemental feeding trials that took place this past winter.
  • $5.3 million to expand FWC manatee mortality and response efforts, including 12 new positions.
  • $160,000 to support increased aerial surveys.
  • $4.7 million in base funding to support manatee acute care facilities and research, rescue, and conservation activities.

Manatee deaths topped 637 in 2020 but had reached 1,000 by November 2021. In early December, the FWC prioritized manatee-saving efforts while continuing to investigate the high level of manatee mortalities.

“This historic investment in manatee rescue efforts and habitat restoration will expand the state’s critical care network, increase access to warm water environments, and restore access to manatee foraging habitat,” Eric Sutton, FWC’s executive director, said in a statement. 

The news comes a day before the FWC is set to hold a commission meeting Tuesday and Wednesday at the Hilton UF Conference Center in Gainesville. The proceedings will begin at 8:30 a.m. on both days. Public comments will be accepted in person during the meeting. 

Monday’s announcement follows continued efforts to restore water quality in the state. In November 2021, several principalities throughout Florida were awarded Wastewater Grant Program $481 million to reduce nutrient pollution

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