(1) The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shall implement and administer an enhanced manatee protection study designed to increase knowledge of the factors that determine the size and distribution of the manatee population in the waters of the state. The enhanced study shall be used by the commission in its mission to provide manatees with the maximum protection possible, while also allowing maximum recreational use of the state’s waterways. The goal of the enhanced study is to collect data that will enable resource managers and state and local policymakers, in consultation with the public, to develop and implement sound science-based policies to improve manatee habitat, establish manatee protection zones, and maximize the size of safe boating areas for recreational use of state waters without endangering the manatee population.
(2) The commission is authorized to develop and implement the use of genetic tagging to improve its ability to assess the status and health of the manatee population, including the health and reproductive capacity of manatees, estimating annual survival rates through mark recapture studies, determining migration patterns, and determining maternity and paternity. The development and use of genetic tagging may be done in cooperation with federal agencies or other entities, such as genetic laboratories at schools within the State University System.