JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday that more than $30 million from the state’s budget would be dedicated to enhancing and expanding manatee rescue and rehabilitation efforts as well as for habitat restoration programs.
"This historic funding will support important restoration efforts across the state to benefit our manatees and Florida’s natural environment," DeSantis said while announcing the historic investment while visiting the Manatee Critical Care Center at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. "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."
"Environmental conditions in portions of the Indian River Lagoon remain a concern," the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said. "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."
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created a team to address the mortality event for manatees along the Atlantic coast. They began different approaches to bring relief to manatees in distress.
In fact, a temporary field response station was set up and used more than 200,000 pounds of produce to feed at least 800 manatees.
Here's how the more than $30 million will be used:
- $20 million: This will be used 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: This will be used to expand the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission manatee mortality and response efforts, including 12 new positions.
- $4.7 million: This will be used to support manatee acute care facilities and research, rescue and conservation activities.
- $160,000: This will be used to support an increase in aerial surveys.
Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, praised the funding.
"I am exceedingly grateful for Gov. DeSantis’ commitment of more than $30 million in the Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget to enhance and expand manatee rescue and rehabilitation efforts and provide habitat restoration for areas where manatees are highly concentrated," he said in a statement. "Due to the unprecedented severity of the ongoing Unusual Mortality Event – in which more than 1,600 manatees have died statewide over the last 16 months – these and additional extraordinary measures are called for in order to protect manatees and their critical habitat."
The historic investment to save manatees is an increase of $17 million from last year's budget.