SPRINGS RESTORATION FUNDING Included in Governor Scott’s budget and later approved by the Legislature was $50 million in Legacy Florida funding for springs restoration projects.The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Water Management Districts have identified 40 springs projects that will receive the funding to improve water quality, recharge water flow and/or protect habitat in and around Florida’s springs. Included are Wakulla Springs in Wakulla County, Silver Springs in Marion County, and White and Blue Sink Springs in Suwannee County. For a full list of the funded projects, go here.
SHARKS After a video of fishermen violently dragging a shark behind their boat went viral, Governor Scott called on state wildlife officials to review fishing regulations. As it is unclear if any laws were violated, legislators have considered filing bills this session that seek to better define state wildlife laws. Additional videos have surfaced, including that of a man shooting a hammerhead shark that had been reeled to the side of a boat. Hammerheads are illegal to harvest in state waters.
In other shark news, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to look at banning the importation of shark fins through the state’s ports. While “finning” (cutting off shark fins at sea and then discarding the sharks) is illegal in Florida, there is debate on whether to support a federal proposal prohibiting possession of shark fins.
FLORIDA CITRUS HARVEST UPDATE A decade ago, Florida citrus accounted for 75 percent of all U.S. orange production. Today it stands at 58 percent. After a growing season plagued with drought, citrus greening, and the expansion of residential development, harvesters continue to see a decline in production. The Florida Department of Citrus anticipates a 20 percent cut to its budget, though final numbers will be released in October after the 2017-18 growing forecast.
BEAR-PROOFING The Legislature approved $415,000 for the “BearWise” project for this fiscal year, with an additional $100,000 coming from the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida through the sale of “Conserve Wildlife” license plates. This is a decrease from $825,000 last year, with most of those additional funds being generated from the 2015 bear hunt. The money is used to match local government funding, helping communities buy bear-resistant trash cans.
SNOOTY THE MANATEE Snooty, thought to have been the world’s oldest living manatee, died just days after celebrating his 69th birthday at his home in the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, where he had lived since 1993. Snooty, born on July 21, 1948, was the first known manatee to be born in captivity, measuring three-feet long and 75-pounds at birth. He ate 80 pounds of vegetables a day, and on his 60th birthday the Save the Manatees Club was able to procure AARP membership for him!