For Immediate Release
September 8, 1999

Contacts: Tom MacKenzie 404/679-7291, Jim Valade (FWS): 904/232-2580 ext 118, Dr. Lynn Lefebvre (USGS Sirenia Project): 352/372-2571, David Arnold, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: 850/922-4330, Dr. James Powell, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: 727/896-8626, Winifred Perkins, Florida Power and Light Company: 561/691-7046

MANATEES' FUTURE HEATING UP - POWER COMPANIES, MANATEE RESEARCHERS, AND ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGERS MEET TO DISCUSS MANATEE WINTER HABITAT

Jupiter, FL Like other native Floridians, manatees thrive on warm temperatures and, in fact, need warm water during cold periods to survive. Manatees find warm water at natural warm-water springs, in inshore areas of south Florida, and at man-made industrial warm-water discharges. All wintering sites are influenced by human activities that, if not properly managed, may significantly affect the status of the manatee population, which numbers at least 2,300 animals.

On August 24 - 25, 1999, over 75 concerned stakeholders from power companies, Federal, state, and private manatee research organizations, Federal, state, and local government management agencies, manatee advocacy groups, and others, met to review the status of the manatees' winter habitat, to identify threats, and to identify ways to protect these areas and the manatees that use them.

The stakeholders, representing more than 30 organizations, talked about information needs and explored and identified strategies to help secure the manatees' future.

Factors affecting the future of man-made discharges were identified by workshop participants as their most critical concern. Artificial discharges attract hundreds of manatees that, through the years, have become accustomed to using these sites each winter. Many of these discharges are released by plants that have been operating for decades but have become or are becoming obsolete. Uncertainties regarding the operation of certain plants historically used by manatees and efforts to re-regulate the power industry in Florida and elsewhere heighten concerns about the effects that this could have on manatee conservation.

Attendees also recognized that the protection and restoration of natural warm-water refuges are important concerns. Manatee numbers have increased in regions where manatees use natural, reliable, warm-water springs such as thermal refuges in north Florida (e.g., Crystal River in northwest Florida and Blue Spring in the upper St. Johns River). The manatees' status is less certain on the Atlantic Coast, where manatees use a series of warm-water discharges between Jacksonville and Miami.

Many natural warm-water springs once found throughout Florida have disappeared, some are no longer accessible by manatees, and others are threatened by diminishing supplies of groundwater. Industrial warm-water discharges have attracted manatees far from their historical winter range (occasionally, as far north as Savannah, Georgia and as far west as Houston, Texas). Manatees wintering in these northern extremes are at great risk when these discharges are unable to provide adequate warm water during periods of extreme cold. Some manatees die each year from exposure to the cold, especially recently weaned sub-adults.

Workshop participants identified many concerns about natural and man-made warm-water sites and posed strategies to deal with them. The workshop targeted potential solutions that will require the combined efforts of all stakeholders.

To learn more about what you can do to help the manatee, visit the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service web site at www.fws.gov and do a search for "manatee."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.

X X X

Release #:R99-077B

 


1999 News Releases
Go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region Home Page