State budget carves out $5.3 million for manatee rescue efforts
State budget writers have agreed to include $5.3 million to fund Florida's Manatee Rescue and Mortality Response initiative, floating 12 employees and rescue vehicles, Florida Politics reports.
- And while two bills to create seagrass mitigation banks — HB 349 and SB 198 — died in session, a plan to fast-track seagrass plantings has emerged.
The backdrop: The news comes as new manatee mortality numbers show slightly fewer deaths this year than at the same time last year — 375 as of Feb. 25, versus 389 for the same period the year before.
- The vast majority of deaths so far are in the Indian River, where the seagrass beds where manatees feed in the winter have been depleted by pollution from fertilizer runoff and septic tanks.
Why it matters: The celebrated creatures are imperiled — last year more died than in any year since deaths started being tracked.
- Federal and state officials on the East Coast have resorted to hand-feeding the manatees lettuce — 55 tons so far — to stave off starvation.
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