Subject: Manatee:Florida's manatee count could (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Tue, 10 Feb 1998 13:20:17 -0500 (EST)

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Date: Tue, 10 Feb 98 12:51:00 GMT 
Subject: Florida's manatee count could

Florida's manatee count could rise in 1998

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Reuters) - Researchers at Florida's
Marine Research Institute said Friday they were optimistic the
state's manatee population would be bigger in 1998 than in 1996
or 1997 after promising survey results.    The first aerial
survey of the year, which revealed a count of 2,019 of the
endangered mammals, was "pretty good," Bruce Ackerman, a
marine biologist for the state's Environmental Protection
Department, said.
     "We're optimistic that we'll have a better year in 1998
than both 1996 and 1997," Ackerman said.
     The Florida manatee, a gentle, leathery marine mammal that
averages 10 feet in length and 1,000 pounds in weight, dates
back at least 45 million years, scientists say.
     Experts have long been concerned about its survival because
it reproduces slowly and dozens are killed each year by speeding
boats as manatees surface in canals, rivers and lagoons in
     Ackerman said he was cautious about being too optimistic
after the latest results. He said the institute was hoping for a
cold spell later this month so it could make another survey.
     "Counts are more accurate when it is cold, clear and
windless because manatees move to the surface to warm in the
sun, making them more visible," he said.
     The survey information plays an important part in helping
protect manatees, 149 of which died along Florida's west coast
in the spring of 1996 from a bloom of toxic algae commonly known
as a red tide.
     That year 415 manatees died in Florida, the highest death
toll ever. Earlier in 1996, observers had reported a record
population figure of 2,639.
     "In 1996 we had a very, very high level of deaths, and
we're pretty sure that the population dropped some after 1996,"
Ackerman said.
     "But we feel the population had been increasing up until
then. We hope that it's better in 1998."
     The survey was taken by a team of 31 observers and involved
staff from 13 agencies, research labs and universities. The
search covered both Florida coasts, using 19 aircraft and six
ground teams.