Wildlife officials predict healthy number of manatees this summer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While there currently isn’t a high number of manatees in Jacksonville, there will be in April as the waters warm up.

The manatee population is on the rise, and wildlife officials predict there will be a healthy number this summer.

“Manatee situation, in general, is pretty good right now. If we had been talking 25 years ago, we were predicting the extinction of manatees. We were killing them faster than they were being born,” said Dr. Quinton White, the executive director of Jacksonville University’s Marine Science Research Institute. “We’ve gone from about 1,200 to probably well over 6,000 in terms of total manatees. In Blue Springs, recently, they had record numbers -- I think 566 on a given day, which was a new high."

News4Jax spoke with White on Tuesday, when the Jacksonville Waterways Commission received a report from JU on water quality and manatees.

In 2017, the Florida manatee was reclassified from an endangered to a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. The change was based on the increasing population and the establishment of protection measures.

While the population is doing well right now, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a record number of manatees were killed last year by Florida boaters.

By practicing safe habits on the water, boaters can help keep the manatee population up.

“Wear polarized sunglasses, look for swirls in the water, slow down when you’re near a shore, try to pay attention to what’s going on because no one wants to hurt a manatee,” White said.

For information on the Florida manatee and conservation efforts, click here.

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