Sprinkle list: millions designated to protect sea cows

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Manatees face an uncertain future.

The House’s supplemental funding list includes $8 million to help protect Florida’s beloved manatee population.

The supplemental funding list, known by insiders as a “sprinkle list,” is a last-minute collection of budget items introduced into the state’s spending plan.

Among unusual items on this year’s list: sea cows.

The House is proposing $8 million of general revenue to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help the state’s endangered manatees. According to budget language, the funding will go toward restoring “manatee access to springs and provide habitat restoration in manatee concentrated areas.”

The funding comes as manatees face an uncertain future.

Manatees have been dying at an alarming rate, with more than 540 carcasses being found since early December, mostly in and around the Indian River Lagoon. That is about three times normal.

Many of the dead manatees looked as if they starved to death, leading officials to worry that winter food sources, primarily sea grass, have been disappearing around the warm-water spots where manatees congregate for the winter.

Sea cows, however, have long been of concern for marine biologists and animal enthusiasts.

In the past 20 years there have been several other unusual mortality events involving manatees, although those were determined to be caused by red tides, algae blooms, or unusually cold winters.

None of those episodic conditions occurred this winter. The current mortality event, prognosticators fear, could suggest a longer-term problem that could persist in future winters.

Notably, the House’s allotment is slated to be nonrecurring, meaning there’s no guarantee for future funding.

Still, the funding marks Tallahassee’s latest effort to protect sea cows.

Manatees are protected under federal law and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, according to a leading manatee protection group.

The protections make it illegal to harass, hunt, capture or kill the marine mammal.

Violators face fines and imprisonment under state and federal law.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JasonDelgadoFL.


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