To honor our incredible wildlife, Defenders has declared 2019 the Year of Coexistence. Over the course of the year, we'll highlight innovative ways people are sharing the landscape with wildlife.
The Florida manatee is a threatened marine mammal found in the coastal and riverine waters of Florida. This sea cow is often mortally wounded by high-speed recreational boats and is threatened by the loss of warm-water sites that it depends on during cold weather. In response to being listed as an endangered species, significant resources from federal, state and local government agencies and the private sector have been directed towards research, protection and conservation of manatees. Beginning in 1980, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) identified areas that manatees use as warm-water refuges during cold weather. In 1983, the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect the manatee.
In 2012, FWS protected manatees in the waters that surround the Crystal River refuge by designating all of Kings Bay and its tributaries a manatee refuge. Since 2015, FWS and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) have created 25 manatee refuge and sanctuary areas. The FWCC has also added many other state speed zones and safe havens to its manatee protection regulations. Though still at risk, the manatee is around today largely thanks to the ESA.