The general consensus on 2009 is that it was a lousy year for human beings. The same can be said for two of Florida's most beloved endangered species — the manatee and the Florida panther.
Both suffered record fatalities in 2009, showing that state wildlife officials have to do more to protect them, especially from their worst enemy: human beings.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that 429 dead manatees had been found by mid-December. The tally included 114 newborns and 56 adults that died of cold stress and 97 killed by encounters with boats. That tops the record 95 deaths by boat strikes set in 2006.
The good news is that the commission believes, albeit by an inexact counting method, that the manatee population has grown to a record 3,800 since being declared endangered.
That growth set off a campaign by recreational boaters and waterfront developers to get the manatee down-listed from its endangered status. However, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wisely heeded Gov. Charlie Crist's call to take strong protections.
But more must be done to educate boaters on manatee area speed limits and to enforce speed zones in waterways. The seacow's biggest champion, Save the Manatee Club, offers boaters and shoreline property owners free boating banners and aluminum dock signs to remind other boaters that manatees are present.
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