The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reported a preliminary count of 6,250 manatees statewide. A team of 16 observers from 11 organizations counted 3,292 manatees on Florida’s east coast and 2,958 on the west coast of the state.
This year’s count of 6,250 manatees is similar to last year’s count of 6,063. Both years had very good survey conditions and 2015 and 2016 are the only two years on record for which the count has exceeded 6,000 individuals. Because some animals go undetected, these counts represent the minimum number of manatees known to be in the survey area on the day of the survey.
“Weather conditions can greatly impact our counts. Fortunately, the conditions during this year’s survey were very good,” said FWC biologist Dr. Holly Edwards.
Aerial surveys are conducted annually, weather permitting, to provide researchers with a count of manatees visible in Florida waters at the time of the survey. Through this effort, researchers know there are at least 6,250 manatees in Florida waters. In addition to the number of manatees counted, these surveys also provide researchers information on species distribution and habitat use.
“The survey is flown during the cold weather, providing broad-scale information about manatee distribution among warm-water sites that the species requires to survive,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute Director Gil McRae. Information obtained by the survey informs management decisions and enables wildlife and resource managers to better understand and conserve Florida’s state marine mammal.