MIASF releases information from manatee scientific symposium

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Marine Industries Association of South Florida said today that Florida is well on its way to determining the state’s optimal sustainable population of manatees based on key manatee recovery demographic indicators including; adult survival, adult females with calves and population growth rates.

These and other issues were discussed by a panel of manatee experts at a 2003 scientific symposium.

A panel of experts, including representatives from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Marine Research Institute, Florida Atlantic University and the University of Miami, convened to address factors impacting Florida’s optimal sustainable manatee population and to submit answers based on their research and expertise.

“Our discussion with these experts has shown that there are several fronts on which to continue aggressive research that leads to solutions to manatee preservation. We’ve heard some exciting ideas presented at this forum ranging from sea grass bed rehabilitation to avoidance technology,” said Frank Herhold, executive director, MIASF.

While experts say that they currently do not know what Florida’s optimal sustainable population is for manatees, criteria used by the state in determining the recovery of the herd appear to be promising in helping to determine what that number could be. These include; adult survival of more than 90 percent throughout Florida; calf reproduction of more than 40 percent in every part of the state except for unknown percentages in the Southwest; and a population growth rate of greater than zero percent in all regions — except for the unknown in the Southwest.

“There is so much fragmented information out there that it is difficult for agencies to share data to put plans and policies in place to protect this unique creature,” added Herhold. “We feel that information disseminated from this symposium could move the process forward.”

Some symposium findings
Among the symposium’s revelations (taken from the symposium transcript):

– Roughly 84 percent of Florida’s manatee population seems to be reliant on artificial warm water refuges (page 49).
– Manatee protection plans have been effective in helping manage manatee population numbers (page 181)
– Warm water from power plants actually has a negative impact upon the productive yield of sea grasses (page 78)
– Water management will play an important role; increased human needs for fresh water will result in less flow from natural springs where manatees could congregate (page 87)
– Manatee grazing actually helps seagrass productivity (page 78)
– In Miami-Dade County, the incidence of manatee/boat collisions has not significantly changed historically with the increase in human population. (page 177)

Information from the manatee symposium, attended by manatee experts and hosted by the MIASF is available on recently released transcripts. To view transcripts and download seminar photographs, please go to the breaking news section at www.miasf.org. As some scientific support documents are available in hard copy only, please call or send an e-mail to the MIASF to specifically request this information at (954) 524-2733.

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