Conservation and Legal Protection

 West Indian manatees in the United States are protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which make it illegal to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal.

West Indian manatees are also protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978.



 The Florida Manatee Recovery Plan was developed as a result of the Endangered Species Act. The recovery plan is coordinated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and sets forth a list of tasks geared toward recovering manatees from their current endangered status.



 In October of 1989, Florida's Governor and Cabinet directed the Florida Department of Environmental protection to work with 13 "key" manatee counties in Florida to reduce injuries and deaths. 




 These counties include: Duval, Volusia, Citrus, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Dade, Collier, Lee and Sarasota. Over 80% of manatee mortalities have occurred in these counties.




The first task of these 13 county governments, working with the state, is to develop site specific boat speed zones to reduce watercraft collisions.



The second task is to develop comprehensive manatee protection plans (MPP) at the local level. Twelve of the 13 key counties have implemented boat speed zones for manatee protection.



Other conservation measures deemed important to saving manatees include: research covering the biology, mortality, population and distribution, behavior, and habitat of manatees.


As well as implementation of management plans; posting of regulatory speed signs and levying of fines for excess speeds in designated areas; manatee education and public awareness programs; and public acquisition of critical habitat and creation of sanctuaries have also been enforced.