Researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) documented fewer manatee deaths in 2012 than in the previous three years, as milder winter temperatures led to significantly less cold-related mortality. The FWC recorded 392 manatee carcasses in state waters last year, of which a quarter were determined to be from human-related causes.
FWC researchers, managers and law enforcement staff work closely together to evaluate mortality data and identify necessary actions. Actions may include steps to protect vital habitat or special patrols to ensure compliance with manatee speed zones.
The FWC is committed to conservation actions that reduce human-caused manatee deaths, including those related to watercraft. The FWC's Division of Law Enforcement, in cooperation with partner agencies, uses knowledge of local boating conditions and habits, well-posted speed regulatory zones and up-to-date manatee information as part of its on-the-water enforcement operations.
Researchers documented 81 watercraft-related deaths in 2012, slightly below the yearly average of the past five years.
"Protecting manatees is a priority," said Maj. Jack Daugherty, FWC's Boating and Waterways section leader. "Our officers take time to patrol manatee zones, identify areas that have presented problems, and generally work with the public to educate them on how to boat safely and in a way that doesn't harm the environment."
To help prevent cold-related deaths, the FWC continues to work with partners to enhance availability of warm-water sites important to manatee survival. Among recent efforts was the restoration of Fanning Springs by the FWC and partners, which improves manatee access to a natural warm-water habitat off the Suwannee River.
To view preliminary 2012 manatee mortality data, visit MyFWC.com/Research/Manatee
and click on "Manatee Mortality Statistics."
To learn more about manatee conservation, go to MyFWC.com/Manatee
As part of its conservation efforts, the FWC rescues distressed manatees throughout the state. The FWC and partners rescued 81 manatees in 2012, in many cases as a result of citizens contacting the agency. To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
Florida residents can also help manatees by purchasing the manatee specialty license plate, available at county tax collectors' offices. The funds collected for these plates go directly to manatee research and conservation.