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More Than One Half Million Dollars To Be Directed to Manatee Research Efforts


May 2, 2003

Christine Eustis, (404) 679-7287
Chuck Underwood,
(904) 232-2580 ext. 109

Today, Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Governor Jeb Bush announce the commitment of more than one-half million dollars in funding dedicated to enhancing manatee research efforts in the State of Florida. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey, both agencies within the Department of the Interior, will allocate the funding during the current fiscal year.

“We listened to our stakeholders and the public who asked us to focus our efforts on research to ensure that we’re using sound science in reaching our decisions,” said Secretary Norton. “These new funds will complement the ongoing manatee research underway in Florida and also provide an opportunity to expand our efforts into important new areas.”

The new funding will go to a variety of research institutions with expertise in marine mammals and support critical manatee research activities identified as the highest priorities by the Service and the State of Florida.

“I am pleased to see the release of these research dollars,” said Governor Jeb Bush. “It is critical that manatee protection be based on the best available science and this will complement and accelerate the ongoing research we are conducting in the state.”

Specifically, these activities include:

  • New and redirected funding to improve the methods and reliability of manatee population surveys and help wildlife managers better estimate manatee survival and reproductive rates. Funds will be dedicated to enhance photo-identification methods and increase understanding of population dynamics, especially in southwest Florida.

  • New and redirected funding to modify and refine the manatee population modeling already underway at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Sirenia Laboratory in Gainesville, Florida. This modeling effort will assist managers in predicting the effects of various management decisions on manatee populations.

  • New and redirected funding to develop a statistically-valid, aerial survey program to assess manatee distribution and abundance throughout the State;

  • Redirected funding to evaluate the effectiveness of existing manatee conservation strategies, particularly speed zones in Florida, and to measure their impacts on manatee conservation and recovery.

The data collected from these research activities will be important in assisting wildlife managers at the Federal, state and local level in developing policies that address manatee conservation and recovery.

Over the past few years the protection of manatees has become one of the most challenging natural resource issues facing wildlife managers today. Conservation measures implemented over the last few decades, combined with enhanced public awareness, have resulted in an overall increase in the numbers of manatees in Florida compared to 20 years ago. At the same time, development pressure and population growth along Florida’s coastline have increased the number of watercraft operating in the State. As a result, the potential threats to manatees remain high and the need for well-informed, timely decision-making, which is grounded in sound science, is increasingly important.

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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses more than 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 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 fish and wildlife agencies.



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