As of 2015, the Florida Manatee Recovery Plan is working in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enable sea cows, or manatees, to be removed from the endangered species list. Some of the steps taken include the development of boat speed zones that are site specific, the required use of boat propeller guards, and posting speed signs with regulatory fines for violators. The plan is also designed to increase public awareness through education and manatee research.
Manatees are protected by local and federal laws in the state of Florida. Under federal law, they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The Florida Manatee Recovery Plan tracks manatee sightings and mortality rates and identifies land acquisition projects for manatee protection. Conservation groups have advocated the establishment of protected areas that provide shelter for manatees as they travel, so that the threat of speeding watercraft is reduced.
The proposed use of boat propeller guards is only effective when combined with the regulation of boat speed. The majority of manatees, nearly 60 percent, are killed by collision with the boat hull. Forty percent suffer fatalities from propellers. Conservation groups also propose management plans for protected areas that are geared toward making sure seagrasses remain healthy for manatees.
Florida manatees are found in shallow, slow-moving water in bays, rivers, estuaries and along coastal regions. They prefer water with a depth of 3 to 7 feet. Manatees depend on warm water habitats in winter. They can suffer shock and even death in water temperature below 68 degrees. Much of the manatees' natural habitats have been taken over by humans.