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DeSantis pledges millions for manatees

JACKSONVILLE- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a $17 million boost in funding for manatee protection on Monday.

“This historic funding will support important restoration efforts across the state to benefit our manatees and Florida’s natural environment,” DeSantis said at the Manatee Critical Care Center at the Jacksonville Zoo.

The $30 million now earmarked for the endangered mammals will go towards care facilities for injured manatees, habitat restoration, research, and feeding projects such as the one that took place this winter.

Nearly 400 manatees have died in the waters around Florida since the beginning of the year with many being attributed to starvation due to the lack of seagrass.

According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, seagrass has been dying off at an alarming rate due to pollution and algae blooms caused by agricultural runoff.

In an unprecedented move, FWC and other groups conducted an supplemental feeding program for manatees over the winter, dumping more than 50 tons of lettuce into manatee habitats.

As the waters warm, it is hoped that the manatees will head to other areas where seagrass is more plentiful.

Funding in the budget DeSantis intends to sign will continue to support the feeding program.