Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Environment

Florida to dedicate $30 million to saving manatees amid die-off

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a “record investment” to save the state’s iconic animal. More than 500 of them have died this year.
Florida wildlife officials this winter fed manatees lettuce in an effort to keep them from starving in the Indian River Lagoon. The state is poised to spend more than $30 million on work to rescue the iconic animals and restore the habitats where they live.
Florida wildlife officials this winter fed manatees lettuce in an effort to keep them from starving in the Indian River Lagoon. The state is poised to spend more than $30 million on work to rescue the iconic animals and restore the habitats where they live. [ PATRICK DOVE/TCPALM ]
Published May 2|Updated May 2

As manatees continue to die in record numbers, Florida is poised to spend more than $30 million on efforts to rescue the iconic animals and restore the habitats where they live.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday announced his support for the funding, which was included in the budget the Legislature passed in March. The governor’s office called it a “record investment in manatee care and protection” and said it represents a roughly $17 million increase over the current budget.

Related: A record 1,101 Florida manatees died in 2021. When will it end?

The money, according to the state, includes $20 million to cover efforts such as improving manatee access to springs — where they find shelter — and experimental projects like the state’s attempt to feed starving manatees lettuce this winter in the Indian River Lagoon.

Another $5.3 million will boost the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s work on rescuing and recovering manatees and will help pay for 12 positions. Additional funding will pay for aerial surveys to track the manatee population and to support facilities that treat sick manatees.

At least 527 manatees have died this year as of April 22, according to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Last year, 1,101 manatees died, more than any year on record.

Those tallies track all causes of death across Florida. The epicenter of the die-off is the Indian River Lagoon, where scientists say algal blooms have crushed the ecosystem, leaving the manatees there without enough seagrass to eat in the winter.

Related: Florida feeds manatees up to 20,000 pounds of lettuce a week as deaths rise

People hurt manatees in other ways, too, including by accidentally crashing into them with boats.

Manatees are a threatened species, though some experts and politicians are now calling for the federal government to re-classify them as endangered.

Patrick Rose, executive director of the nonprofit Save the Manatee Club, credited House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, in particular for pushing the funding through. DeSantis’ approval is critical, too, he said, because the governor holds veto power and has yet to sign the 2022-23 budget.

The money, Rose said, “will help tremendously in dealing with the immediate predicaments.”

Related: Want to help Florida’s manatees? Don’t feed them yourself.
Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge