2021 was a dangerous year for manatees, with over 1,000 dying due to a lack of seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon. That was double the normal level. As of April 22 of this year, 527 manatees have died.
To address this ongoing problem, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently visited the Manatee Critical Care Center at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and announced that the State had allocated $30 million to protect manatees during the fiscal year 2022-2023. That's roughly $17 million more than the current budget.
For What is the Money Allocated?
The bulk of the funds - approximately $20 million - will go toward the expansion of manatee care facilities, providing habitat restoration, expanding rescue efforts, and increasing projects like the supplemental feeding program that fed lettuce to the manatees last winter.
The lettuce feeding program attracted manatees to the warm waters of the Indian River Lagoon for supplemental feeding. By the conclusion of the program, 202,155 pounds of lettuce had been dispersed. Officials said that the animals "ate every scrap of food" that was put out.
Around $5 million will go toward expanding the efforts of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 12 new employment positions will be created. $4.7 million will go toward manatee care facilities and rescue efforts. The remaining monies will go toward increased aerial surveys to track the manatee population.
How the Public Can Help Manatees: Officials say that the public can also do its part to help manatees. Be careful when boating, avoid seagrass, and contact the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission at the phone number below if you see a sick or injured manatee.