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FWC to seek boost in manatee funding, including expanded rescue and rehabilitation efforts

Two orphaned calves ended up at a SeaWorld rehabilitation center, where they faced a long recovery. Photo by Amy Green

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is requesting $6.8 million for restoration and rescue efforts as a record 968 manatees have died this year in the state.

Poor water quality in the Indian River Lagoon has led to harmful algae blooms and a widespread loss of seagrass. That caused manatees there for warmth in the winter to starve.

Brevard County State Representative Thad Altman spelled out the “death spiral” at a committee hearing Tuesday morning.

“Restoration is not working,” he said, “because the water quality that killed the seagrasses to begin with is still there. We literally have a catastrophe on our hands.”

The new funding request includes more than $3.6 million to expand rescue and rehabilitation efforts.

Melissa Tucker, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s director of habitat and species conservation, says the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership has saved 78 of the animals so far this year.

“But because of the pressure that that system is seeing,” she added, “there’s a budget item here requesting that we expand that critical care network.”

Existing projects include seagrass and springs restoration and $53 million to attack the underlying cause — nutrients entering the lagoon from sewer and septic systems.

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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.