Global Protection: Many (13-40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed
Comments: This species receives limited protection in several managed areas within the United States, but no entire occurrence is adequately protected. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the following national wildlife refuges in which this species is known to occur: Ace basin, Blackbeard Island, Chassahowitzka, Crystal River, Harris Neck, Island Bay, J. N. 'Ding' Darling. Lake Woodruff, Lower Suwannee, Matlacha Pass, Merritt Island, Pelican Island, Pine Island, Pinellas, Savannah-Pinckney, St. Marks, Ten Thousand Islands, Vieques, and Wolf Island.
In Florida, all primary warm-water refuge sites, except the Weeki Wachee/Mud Creek/Jenkins Creek complex, have been protected (USFWS 2007). Secondary sites are variously protected, with some sites continuing to go unprotected and others fully protected. Ten of the 47 total warm-water sites either need protection or are in need of additional protection (USFWS 2007). While all important warm-water refuge sites within the network in Florida have been identified, the Manatee Habitat Working Group has not yet identified nor characterized feeding sites associated with these refuges (USFWS 2007). The Manatee Habitat Working Group also is in the process of identifying a network of migratory corridors and other use areas to ensure protection of feeding, calving and nursing areas throughout the state (USFWS 2007). Many of these sites are already known in the various counties and are variously protected under the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act and/or the Federal Endangered Species Act/ Marine Mammal Protection Act.
In Florida, USFWS has designated sanctuaries at warm-water sites, patrols these areas, and uses its permitting authorities to minimize harassment of manatees (USFWS 2007). Outreach and education programs are also in place to minimize harassment in these areas.
The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978 established Florida as a refuge and sanctuary for manatees. The Act protects manatees from injury, disturbance, harassment, or harm in the waters of Florida and allows for enforcement of boat speeds and operations in areas where manatees are concentrated.
Subsequent to the 2001 Florida Manatee Recovery Plan (USFWS 2001), there have been numerous additions and improvements to federal, state, and local manatee protection zones throughout peninsular Florida, as well as a number of ongoing studies to assess the effectiveness of these protection zones (USFWS 2007). To reduce unauthorized "take" associated with boat facility construction and the boats that use them, USFWS, state, and permitting authorities have developed permitting guidance to minimize the effects of these activities on manatees (USFWS 2007). In addition, the state of Florida recently drafted a management plan in conjunction with their decision to reclassify the state status of the manatee from "endangered" to "threatened." In addition, numerous counties have adopted manatee protection plans and other manatee protection measures (USFWS 2007).
Needs: Efforts should be made to reduce poaching in areas outside the United States. In Florida, reduction is needed in the level of mortality resulting from boat collisions.
In Florida, warm-water winter refuges are in great need of protection. USFWS and the state of Florida are working together and coordinating with other agencies and industry to address possible warm water loss from a variety of angles, including seeking alternative sources of warm water in the short term, and restoring major springs to provide access to natural sources of warm water for the long term (USFWS 2007). Failure to protect existing sources of warm water in winter or to provide secure surrogate habitats for the long-term could lead to a future decline in the Florida manatee population, reduced long-term carrying capacity, and an elevated risk of extirpation on either coast of Florida (USFWS 2007).