An aerial survey this month had a preliminary total of 6,620 creatures, compared to 6,250 in 2016 and 6,063 the year before. In 1991 the aerial estimate of the Manatees (sea cow) was only 1,267.
"The relatively high counts we have seen for the past three years underscore the importance of warm water habitat to manatees in Florida," said Gil McRae, head of the state's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. The survey counted 3,488 on the state's east coast and 3,132 along the west coast.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission said Monday, "The manatees, of course, have to be seen to be counted and their exact numbers are unknown. The survey is conducted by air and the count represents the minimum number of manatees in the area. State biologists also pointed to recent conservation measures for the high manatee count.
Manatees, which are also known as sea cows, have been on the endangered list for more than 40 years due to threats posed by urbanization, water contamination and collisions with boats.
"The manatee's recovery is incredibly encouraging and a great testament to the conservation actions of many," Cindy Dohner, the Southeast regional director for US Fish and Wildlife, said at the time. "Today's proposal is not only about recognizing this progress, but it's also about recommitting ourselves to ensuring the manatee's long-term success and recovery."
The Florida manatees are part of the estimated 13,000 that also includes those living in the Caribbean and along the coasts of Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil.
Manatees live in shallow waters and must come to the surface to breathe about every 15 minutes. The herbivores can reach four meters (13 feet) long, weigh up to 600 kilos (1,300 pounds) and live about 40 years.
"The threat is still out there, and it's not going away," Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation for the club, said last year. "You don't celebrate when you're not done with the game. There's a lot more work to be done to safeguard the habitat, to get manatees removed from the Endangered Species Act altogether."
The manatee remains protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.