Pinellas County recognized the importance of manatee protection and instituted policies to protect seagrass beds and other habitats for endangered and threatened species. By early 1998, Pinellas County had completed updates and adopted significant revisions to the Comprehensive Plan to support such measures as enforcing no-wake zones and seagrass protection areas, and providing manatee caution signage.
- Sec. 130-77. County registration fee. The first $1.00 of every registration fee imposed under this section shall be remitted to the state for deposit in the "save the manatee trust fund" for expenditure solely on activities related to the preservation of manatees.
Additionally, other policies in the Plan continue to provide for protection, enhancement and restoration of natural systems such as seagrass beds, and regulate development that may impact coastal resources and habitats (Sec. 166-284-c). Pinellas County's efforts to adhere to the various elements of the Plan are reflected in the various programs that are in place to protect manatees and their habitat.
Manatee sightings in Pinellas County waters are reported by the public through use of the Watch Line. The program provides information to help document areas heavily used by manatees.
The Watch Line logs an average of 450 reported sightings per year. Calls have been received from Pinellas County residents as well as tourists visiting from other states and countries. The program has helped to raise awareness of manatees in Pinellas County waters. Watch Line results show areas heavily used by manatees include: Ft. DeSoto, Coffee Pot Bayou, McKay Creek, and Spring and Whitcomb Bayous in Tarpon Springs. Manatees are drawn to these areas for a number of reasons. Freshwater springs located in Coffee Pot Bayou and Spring and Whitcomb Bayous attract manatees seeking fresh drinking water. Seagrass beds in the Ft. DeSoto and McKay Creek areas are prime feeding spots.
- State Manatee Plan: Committee reviewing the State Manatee Management Plan.