The figures are astounding and unprecedented.
More than 4,500 sea turtles were rescued from the cold water in January. Manatee carcasses continue to appear, putting the deaths for 2010 at more than 200 after only one month. For comparison, the highest number of manatee deaths for a single calendar year is 429.
Massive efforts by the state’s wildlife agency, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), to rescue, save and recover the cold-stressed animals saved the lives of at least 80 percent of rescued sea turtles. Since the beginning of the year, biologists have rescued more than a dozen manatees statewide and transported them to rehabilitation facilities as needed, and transported manatee carcasses to the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s lab in St. Petersburg for examination. Volunteers, other government agencies and partners from the corporate world all assisted in the efforts during this unprecedented event.
The public can help efforts to conserve and fund research for both sea turtles and manatees by purchasing a specialty license plate or decal. The extra fee for the sea turtle tag helps fund the Sea Turtle Grants Program.
Approximately 30 percent is distributed to the grants program, which is administered by the nonprofit Caribbean Conservation Corporation. Visit www.helpingseaturtles.org for more information. The other 70 percent of tag revenue goes to the FWC’s Marine Turtle Protection Program to support research and management activities related to sea turtles. License plate funds were an important source of money used to support the rescue of the sea turtles during the January cold snap.
The money generated from the extra fee for manatee plates goes to the implementation of the FWC’s manatee management plan. This comprehensive, strategic plan aims to manage the manatee population into the future by securing habitat and minimizing threats. The manatee plan includes key research, rescue and management conservation measures necessary to maintain manatees throughout the state.
The sea turtle and manatee also are featured on decals. The funds collected for the decals also help fund research and conservation efforts. The decals are on sale for $5 each at Florida tax collectors’ offices, or as a voluntary add-on to boat registration fees. Decals from previous years are available from MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle and MyFWC.com/Manatee.
Specialty license plates are available at all county tax collectors’ offices, as well as online at www.buyaplate.com.
For more information on the impacts of the cold snap on Florida’s wildlife, visit the “Quick Clicks” area of MyFWC.com.