Manatees are currently protected by the following Federal laws:
1. Endangered Species Act
1. Endangered – means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
2. Threatened – means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future
Manatees have been classified as an “endangered” species since 1967.
2. Marine Mammal Protection Act - prohibits the take (i.e., harass, hunt, capture, or kill) of all marine mammals
The State of Florida first enacted Manatee Protections in 1893. Today, manatees continue to be protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act as well as the two Federal laws listed above.
According to their website, the Florida Wildlife Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) helps to protect and conserve manatees and their habitat through:
Manatees have been designated as the Official State Mammal of Florida.
Florida’s Imperiled Species Management Section (ISM)
FWC – Imperiled Species Management Section (ISM) staff conduct reviews of county specific Manatee Protection Plans, environmental resource permits, and other planning documents such as comprehensive plans.
FWC-ISM staff also oversees the process of promulgating manatee protection boat speed and access rules and administers activities related to these rules. Staff evaluates data and develops proposed rules for consideration by the Commission.
Beginning in 2013, the FWC introduced draft species action plans followed by an Imperiled Species Management Plan that will be the blueprint for conserving 60 species on Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species list.
In addition to Federal and State Protection Laws, Manatees are also protected at the county level. In 1989, the Governor of Florida and the Cabinet directed 13 “Key Counties” to develop their own county-specific Manatee Protection Plans (MMP’s).
In 1991, Citrus County was the first county in the state to develop and adopt their own Manatee Protection Plan. The directive became law in 2002 for all 13 counties.
As a result of the exceptional public education initiatives that have been conducted through the past several decades and the efforts of such organizations such as The Save The Manatee Club, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, manatees have captured the hearts of people world-wide. Public support for the protection of manatees and the acceptance of boating regulations has become part of our culture. The vast majority of people do not want to see manatees harmed in any way.
Clearly, the Manatee is one of the most protected animals on earth and the result is that the manatee population has recovered from the brink of extinction as evidenced by the large increase in population, despite naturally occurring incidences of red tide, brown tide, and cold weather, as well as the injuries caused by boating collisions . The recovery of the manatee population is a testament to the dedication and hard work of federal, state, and local governments and agencies, and the efforts of the human population that surround them.