Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act
The Original LIMITED Motorboat Restricted Zones of the FMSA
Legislative manatee protection in Florida dates back to "an act to protect the manatee or sea cow" proposed, passed in both houses and signed into law by then Governor Mitchel on June 1, 1893 which stated that hunters could no longer capture or kill as many manatees as they wanted without first getting a permit from their county commission. In 2907 fines were introduced for killing a manatee. The Endangered Species Act included manatee as one of the original 78 species listed in 1966. The Marine Mammal Protection Act added further protections in 1972 and Florida's Manatee Sanctuary Act (FMSA) was passed in 1978. The original writings of the FMSA identified a limited number of areas (18 or so, Statewide) where manatee were known to congregate on a regular basis and limited the operation of motor vessels in, around and near these areas.
A coalition of environmental activists organizations lead by the Save the Manatee Club and others brought a series of legal actions against the Federal and Florida wildlife agencies for not protecting the manatee "enough". Many of those outside the legal actions describe what took place as a "wink" lawsuit. Rather than argue the merits of the case, the USFWS and Florida entered into a settlement agreement that resulted in what most consider the gross over-regulation of Florida's coastal waterways and rivers. County by county, vast areas were identified by the environmental litigants to be defined as slow speed, idle, and not motorboat entry zones in the name of manatee protection. Unlike the original designated zones where there was hard evidence that justified the regulations imposed, and a true effort to find balance between boating and these zonesThe agencies were more than willing to oblige. The result of this was a series of rule-making documented in the VOLUME of pages which is the current form of the FMSA.
The "Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act" Today, FS 68C-22
The wording of the original FMSA has been trampled in the process. "It is the intent of the Legislature through adoption of this paragraph to allow the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Department of Environmental Protection to post and regulate boat speeds only where manatee sightings are frequent and it can be generally assumed that they inhabit these areas on a regular or continuous basis. It is not the intent of the Legislature to permit the commission department to post and regulate boat speeds generally in the above-described inlets, bays, rivers, creeks, thereby unduly interfering with the rights of fishers, boaters, and water skiers using the areas for recreational and commercial purposes. Limited lanes or corridors providing for reasonable motorboat speeds may be identified and designated within these areas"
Brevard County Manatee Protection Plan
Brevard County MPP
Also as part of the settlement agreement resulting from the "wink" lawsuit, 13 coastal Florida counties were designated critical to manatees. These counties were required to write, propose and have a county Manatee Protection Plan approved prior to any additional shoreline development in support of boating activities. The Brevard County plan took nine years to reach final approval, beginning in 1994 with the formation of an ad-hoc committee by the Brevard County Board of Commissioners and culminating with approval after contentious debate by the County Commission and the State of Florida in 2003. Although the Commissioners approved requests to revise the plan in 2006 and again in 2016, the now grossly outdated plan remains long overdue for review as originally approved.
An MPP is a county specific management plan developed, approved and used by federal, state and local governments to ensure the long term protection of manatees and their habitat within what is defined as the County boundaries.
In October 1989, the Florida Governor and Cabinet directed local governments in 13 "Key" counties to develop MPPs. This directive was eventually required by Florida Statute in 2002. These plans are used by FWC and the regulatory agencies when reviewing permit applications for new or expanding boat facilities.
As of 2007, all 13 “Key” counties have an FWC-approved MPP.
Brevard, Broward, Citrus, Collier, Duval, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Sarasota, St. Lucie and Volusia counties. Counties that were not designated as “Key” counties by the Governor and Cabinet may want to consider developing an MPP in order to facilitate the review of boat facility development in their counties.
These plans can be accessed on Florida's FWC Website Florida County MPPs
Florida Manatee Warm-Water Habitat Action Plan, FWC (and USFWS)
Warm Water Action Plan, 2020
Excerpts from the Executive Summary
The Florida Manatee Warm-Water Action Plan (WWAP) provides an overview and management goals aimed at addressing one of the most significant remaining threats to the continued existence of the Florida manatee, the loss of warm-water wintering habitat in the southeastern United States. Currently, over half of Florida manatees seek shelter from winter cold in the warm-water discharges of power plants. The rest of the population uses natural springs and thermal basins located in Florida. The power companies will likely phase out power plant discharges within the next 30 years, and human-caused impacts, such as flow reductions and other activities, threaten Florida’s springs and thermal basins.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) worked jointly to develop this updated and revised version of the WWAP in 2019. It is intended to serve as a guidance document to support efforts to conserve, restore and protect the manatee’s warm-water habitat in
Updated Statewide Abundance Estimates for the Florida Manatee - FWC/FWRI Technical Report 23 - 2018
Technical Report 23 - 2018
Knowing how many manatees live in Florida is critical for conservation and management of this threatened species. Martin et al. (2015) flew aerial surveys in 2011–2012 and estimated abundance in those years using advanced techniques that incorporated multiple data sources. We flew additional aerial surveys in 2015–2016 to count manatees and again applied advanced statistical techniques to estimate their abundance. We also made several methodological advances over the earlier work, including accounting for how sea state (water surface conditions) and synchronous surfacing behavior affect the availability of manatees to be detected and incorporating all parts of Florida in the area of inference. We estimate that the number of manatees in Florida in 2015–2016 was 8,810 (95% Bayesian credible interval 7,520–10,280), of which 4,810 (3,820–6,010) were on the west coast of Florida and 4,000 (3,240–4,910) were on the east coast. These estimates and associated uncertainty, in addition to being of immediate value to wildlife managers, are essential new data for incorporation into integrated population models and population viability analyses.
CFFW Presentation to the Manatee Forum:
"An Updated Assessment of Manatee Carrying Capacity in the IRL"
IRL Carrying Capacity Assessment-102516
This presentation was made to the attendees at the meeting on the first of the two days October 25/26 of the Manatee Forum at Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWC / FWRI) facilities in St. Petersburg FL.
The content includes the latest data with respect to IRL seagrass acreage, local IRL manatee population counts, calculations of the permanent negative impact of uprooting during manatee foraging, calculations of boundary values indicating 3 to 10 acres of seagrass are required per manatee wintering in the IRL, the negative impact of the warm water discharge from the FPL Cape Canaveral Enery Center (CCEC) and the disappearing margin between the diminshed IRL deagrass capacity and increasing wintering manatee population.
Final Report, "Carrying Capacity of Manatee Forage and Warm-Water Associated with Eleven Florida Sites, USFWS
Forage and Warm-Water Capacity Report, 063012
This report was authorized by and submitted to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to address the capacity of the major naturally occurring warm water sites to sustain the manatee population. Much of this interest is due to the fact that a significant number of the industrial warm-water sites (power plant warm water cooling outflows) are destined to be eliminated per the U. S. Clean Water Act of 1974.
The content documents the approach and results of calculations of warm water volume available to manatees at each of the sites as well as an assessment of available nearby forage. The results of these assessments are modeled to determine the number of manatees one could expect these locations to effectively support over the winter months.
While much of the work with respect to manatee population limitations has focused on available warm water, the surprising results of this report show that at 9 of the 11 sites evaluated, available nearby forage has a significantly more limiting affect on sustainable manatee numbers than the volume of warm water. These results are tabulated in Table 4 on page 51.
CFFW Comments to Support the USFWS Rule Proposal to Upgrade the Manatee to "Threatened"
with an IRL Addendum
This is CFFWs public comment submitted to USFWS supporting the proposed Rule Change to reclassify the manatee as "threatened". This proposed change is the outcome of the assessment conducted by USFWS over the period Sept 2014 to December 2015. This document is a partial rewrite and update to our comments provided in September 2014.
The first few pages of this document provide an Executive Summary of the entire document. The document itself is the CFFW formal submission to USFWS in April 2016 to encourage USFWS to initiate the formal process to reclassify the manatee from "endangered" to "threatened". Ultimately, the data and analyses provided clearly support the status change to "recovered" which is the removal of the manatee from the Endangered Species Act.
Due to the condition of the IRL and the concern about the affect of this on manatee habitat, we also submitted this addendum. Those who have advocated against reclassification have used the IRL condition as an indicator of future threats to the manatee. This argument does not recognize the significance of the seagrass impact that manatees have contributed to the north-central IRL condition. Over the last 5-10 years the number of manatees wintering in the north central IRL has more than doubled to nearly 2,000 animals.
This ever increasing localized herd is the direct result of the 55 year old man made warm water outflow at the power plant location in Brevard. The IRL seagrass to cannot sustain an ever increasing grazing pressure. To help save the IRL, we must eliminate the warm water outflow to return the manatee to its natural migration habits, vacating the north central IRL for the winter months, to reduce the year-round manatee pressure on the seagrass.. The manatee must be reclassified to permit this change.
USFWS / USGS Manatee Core Biological Model - Population Assessment
Status and Threats Analysis for the Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), 2012
This is the USFWS / USGS "Core Biological Modeling" Report prepared in 2012
The endangered West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), especially the Florida subspecies (T. m. latirostris), has been the focus of conservation efforts and extensive research since its listing under the Endangered Species Act. On the basis of the best information available as of December 2012, the threats facing the Florida manatee were determined to be less severe than previously thought, either because the conservation efforts have been successful, or because our knowledge of the demographic effects of those threats is increased, or both. Using the manatee Core Biological Model, we estimated the probability of the Florida manatee population on either the Atlantic or Gulf coast falling below 500 adults in the next 150 years to be 0.92 percent. The primary threats remain watercraft-related mortality and long-term loss of warm-water habitat. Since 2009, however, there have been a number of unusual events that have not yet been incorporated into this analysis, including several severely cold winters, a severe red-tide die off, and substantial loss of seagrass habitat in Brevard County, Fla. Further, the version of the Core Biological Model used in 2012 makes a number of assumptions that are under investigation. A revision of the Core Biological Model and an update of this quantitative threats analysis are underway as of 2015.
CFFW Comments to USFWS Supporting Upgrading the Manatee to "Recovered"
The first few pages of this document provide an Executive Summary of the entire document. The document itself is the CFFW formal submission to USFWS in September 2014 to encourage USFWS to initiate the formal process to reclassify the manatee from "endangered" to "threatened". Ultimately, the data and analyses provided clearly support the status change to "recovered" which is the removal of the manatee from the Endangered Species Act.
Our arguments are organized into sections which include sections that directly address each of the factors identified in the ESA that are used to determine classification:
Manatee Abundance and Survivability
Manatee Carrying Capacity and Optimum Sustainable Population
Manatee Risk Management
Manatee Potential Biological Removal
Rebuttal of Common Arguments in Opposition to Reclassification