JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Monday at the Jacksonville zoo to tout funding built into Florida’s budget for care and protection of manatees.
“I’m excited to announce that when we signed the budget into law — which we’ll be doing over the next few weeks — we will be approving and including more than $30 million to support efforts to protect Florida’s manatees and their habitats,” DeSantis said.
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The governor said the funding would be an increase of $17 million more than the previous budget provided for manatee protection.
“It will enhance and expand the network of acute care facilities — like the one right here Jacksonville zoo — to treat injured and distressed manatees,” the governor said. “The funding will also support restoration efforts for manatee access to Florida’s warm spring waters, habitat restoration in areas with high manatee populations, manatee rescue and recovery efforts and pilot projects, like the supplemental feeding that FWC conducted this past winter.”
He added that the funding would allow for 12 positions to be added to expand the state’s manatee rescue and recovery efforts.
The funding comes after a record year of manatee deaths in Florida, largely attributed to the animals suffering from starvation due to seagrass, their main source of food, dying off.
The main reason for the seagrass dying off is pollution from sources such as agricultural fertilizer runoff, wastewater discharges and urban sources.
In 2021, more than 1,100 manatee deaths were recorded largely due to starvation, well above the typical five-year average of about 625 deaths.
DeSantis noted some improvement over last year’s number of manatee deaths.
“(The state has) recorded nearly 200 fewer man manatee casualties compared to last year,” the governor said. “I think that we are putting our money where our mouth is on this with this record funding. It’s something that we’re very, very much supportive of it also this is one part of a broader effort that we’re making in Florida to support restoration projects and water quality projects.”