Florida to boost manatee protection funding by $17 million as deaths rise

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JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – More than 520 Florida manatees have died this year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

This follows last year’s record number of manatee deaths, which was over 1,000. The highest number of deaths occurred in Brevard County and due to a lack of seagrass.

Governor DeSantis was in Jacksonville Monday morning to announce that the state is increasing funding to help save beloved sea cows.

AFTER: Grim milestone: Over 500 Florida manatee deaths recorded so far in 2022

DeSantis said this year’s state budget, which he will sign off on in the coming weeks, will include $30 million to help protect manatees, up $17 million from last year.

“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made over the past four years and I’m pleased that we’re able to have a record number of resources available to be able to help something so important to our state,” DeSantis said. , who spoke at the Manatee Critical Care Center at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

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DeSantis said the money will go toward improving and expanding the network of care facilities like the one at the Jacksonville Zoo across the state to care for injured and distressed manatees.

The funding will also support restoration efforts for manatee access to Florida hot spring waters, habitat restoration in areas with high manatee populations, manatee rescue and recovery efforts, and projects pilots like the supplemental feed FWC conducted last winter, DeSantis said.

FWC and its partners undertook the first-ever experimental feeding trial and strategically fed manatees lettuce to help reduce manatee mortality. The crews used more than 200,000 pounds of product, which fed more than 800 manatees and, according to DeSantis, thanks to the efforts, there were 167 fewer manatee deaths compared to the same period last year.

But environmental experts say it will take more than lettuce to solve the problem.

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“We’ve had decades of too much nutrient pollution from human waste leaking groundwater from our septic tanks,” Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and executive director of Save the Manatees, told News4JAX last month. .

As a community, there are ways to help. When it comes to seagrass, if you live on water, be careful about the types of fertilizers you use. Fertilizing just before it rains can cause water runoff.

When it comes to boating, wearing polarized sunglasses can help spot manatees and watch out for low-speed areas. And finally, immediately report a sick and injured manatee to the FWC.

It is important to remember to report a manatee that you think may be injured or sick to the FWC by calling the toll-free number 1-888-404-3922.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX – All Rights Reserved.

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