TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reported a preliminary count of 6,620 manatees in Florida waters. A team of 15 observers from 10 organizations counted 3,488 manatees on Florida’s east coast and 3,132 on the west coast of the state. The FWC is encouraged by a third straight year of a minimum count higher than 6,000 manatees in Florida waters.
Researchers conduct synoptic surveys annually, weather permitting, to count manatees that are visible in Florida waters at the time of the survey. These surveys are conducted after a cold front and cover all of the known winter habitats of manatees in Florida. This year’s counts were aided by warm, sunny weather with low winds and good visibility.
“Successful conservation of manatees is a product of the commitment made by many different organizations over multiple decades. The relatively high counts we have seen for the past three years underscore the importance of warm water habitat to manatees in Florida. The FWC will continue to work diligently with our many partners to ensure the long-term viability of these habitats and the well-being of the manatee population,” said Gil McRae, FWC biologist and head of FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
Aerial surveys provide information about manatee distribution throughout the state. Manatees use warm water sites, like springs and power plant discharges, during the winter. Sustaining adequate winter habitat for manatees remains a statewide conservation goal and a key factor in the long-term recovery of manatees.
FWC biologists, managers and law enforcement staff work closely with partners to evaluate current data and identify necessary actions to protect this iconic animal. Florida has invested more than $2 million annually for manatee conservation, and the FWC will work toward continued success for manatees in our state.
For more information about manatees and synoptic surveys, visit MyFWC.com/Research and click on “Florida Manatee.” To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
—Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
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