Manatee Research

And Conservation

manatees at three sisters springs

Due to the myriad threats plaguing the species, manatees have enjoyed protections within Florida for more than a century; Florida manatees first received protection under Florida state law in 1893, and by 1907 a person could be fined $500 and/or spend six months in jail for harassing or killing a manatee.

Globally, there are three species of manatees: African, Amazonian, and West Indian, all listed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature). The West Indian population is divided into two sub-species: the Antillean and the Florida manatee, both listed as endangered by IUCN. The latter was listed on the very first U.S. endangered species list developed in 1967 and remains an endangered species today.

Florida manatees are protected by both the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act in the United States and are the state marine mammal of Florida.

Manatee Team Activities

researcher swimming with manateesOur dedicated researchers work with all three species of manatees, conducting research and conservation activities resulting in positive impacts to manatees. Using satellite tagging, aerial surveys, photo identification and other tools, we are obtaining sound scientific data to help ensure the survival of manatees around the world.

Our data is informing natural resource managers about critical habitats for manatees, such as springs and other warm water sources, which manatees need to survive. Our team monitors manatees through satellite tagging and observation to understand where they go to find shelter when their primary sources of warm water are no longer available along with summer migration routes and habitat use outside of Florida. We also engage in collaborative rescue activities when individuals succumb to cold stress.

To reduce threats, we identify areas where conflict with humans, such as boat strikes or entanglement in fishing gear, is further endangering manatees. Our scientists, through aerial surveys, capturing, tagging, and behavioral observations, are discovering new information about manatees that are vital for survival. These activities are extremely important to conservation efforts to ensure that the manatee population does not begin to decline in the face of increasing future threats.

juvenile manatee in homosassa

Manatee Fast Facts

Status and Threats:

  • Minimum population count = 6,063 manatees (Feb 2015).
  • Manatees have no natural predators.
  • Manatees experience human-related mortality from:
    • boat strikes.
    • entanglement in and ingestion of fishing gear.
    • being crushed in and/or drowned in lock structures.
    • habitat loss.
  • The loss of warm water habitat is a serious concern as power plants close and natural springs are threatened.

Manatee Photo-Identification Internship

New offsite internship program near the Ocala National Forest.

This internship will primarily consist of assisting research staff in their efforts to identify and document individual manatees that are utilizing springs near the Ocala National Forest. Interns will also assist with data entry, scar sketching, photo processing and upkeep of field equipment. If interested in applying, please click below for more information!


All manatee work was conducted under USFWS Research Permit #MA37808A.

Using satellite tagging, aerial surveys, photo-identification, and other tools, CMA research is ensuring the survival of manatees around the world.

CMA Blog

Updated Mar 25, 2020 | Posted Mar 25, 2020
Updated Mar 26, 2020 | Posted Mar 25, 2020
Updated Mar 25, 2020 | Posted Mar 22, 2020
Updated Jul 8, 2019 | Posted May 22, 2017
Updated Jul 8, 2019 | Posted Feb 27, 2017
Updated Jul 8, 2019 | Posted Jan 30, 2017

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