Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced that the Fiscal Year 2022-2023 budget will include $30 million for expanding manatee rescue and rehabilitation efforts and providing habitat restoration for areas where manatees are highly concentrated. In 2021, 1,101 manatees died—nearly double the five-year average—mostly due to starvation. Experts cite big algae blooms, which populate the water and reduce water clarity, as the culprit. When the water gets murky, the sun can’t stream in, so vegetation—like sea grass, a manatee’s favorite meal—cannot grow.
The $30 million is a $17 million increase over the current year budget and includes $20 million to enhance and expand the network of manatee acute care facilities, restore access to springs, provide habitat restoration in manatee concentrated areas, expand manatee rescue and recovery efforts, and implement pilot projects like the supplemental feeding trials that took place this past winter; $5.3 million to expand Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manatee mortality and response efforts, including 12 new positions; $160,000 to support increased aerial surveys; and $4.7 million in base funding to support manatee acute care facilities and research, rescue, and conservation activities.