Florida Manatees Could Lose Critical Protection if We Don’t Speak Up

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced it will be moving to weaken federal protection for Florida manatees, but advocates for these gentle “sea cows” continue to argue that even though their numbers have risen, it’s more important than ever to give them the highest level of protection.

The FWS now estimates there are 6,300 manatees in Florida, which is a significant rise since they were first protected as an endangered species decades ago. While the increase is promising, their advocates say they still face a barrage of threats that put their future in jeopardy and that now is not the time to weaken protection.

Despite ongoing problems, the FWS has announced it will be moving to downgrade their status from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The move comes as a result of a request filed by the anti-environmental law firm the Pacific Legal Foundation, which petitioned to have the West Indian Manatee and its subspecies, Florida and Antillean manatees, downgraded in 2012.

While the FWS says that protections including regulated boat speeds and habitat protection will remain, manatee advocates believe the change in status is premature and could open the door to additional problems.

Since the FWS first recommended downgrading them in 2007, they’ve been plagued with a record number of deaths, and their advocates argue they still face too many threats ranging from collisions with boats, pollution, entanglement, disease and habitat loss, in addition to environmental issues including red tide, algal blooms and cold weather.

In December, concerns were again raised that while loving manatees is a good thing, we might be loving them just a little too much – to the point of unacceptable harassment in the wild.

Unfortunately, Save the Manatees points out that the FWS didn’t consider recent massive die offs that killed hundreds of manatees, how habitat loss will affect them, or what will happen if power plants that provide them with warm water in the winter are shut down.  According to the FWS, nearly two-thirds of the manatee population winters at industrial warm-water sites, which are now made up almost entirely of power plants.

“The Florida manatee has come a long way but is still threatened by boat strikes, cold stress and undiagnosed mass die-offs in the Indian River Lagoon” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “In the face of these chronic and mounting challenges, the Service should not move forward with downlisting without a proven, viable plan for further reducing boat strike mortality and for preserving vital warm water habitat.”

TAKE ACTION!

The announcement from the FWS opened a 90-day public comment period. If you would like to speak up on behalf of Florida’s manatees and support of keeping the highest level of protection, you can submit a comment at regulations.gov.

Please also sign and share the petition asking the FWS not to strip manatees of endangered status.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

197 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Christine Jones
Christine J1 years ago

Signed.

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Melania Padilla
Melania P1 years ago

Signed and shared

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Angela K.
Angela K1 years ago

Petition signed

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M.N. J.
M.N. J1 years ago

M.N.,
you took action on January 14, 2016

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Debbie Hartman
DEBORAH Hartman1 years ago

Thank-you for sharing. Great article

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Valerie A.
Valerie A1 years ago

thanks

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Debbie Phillips
Debra Phillips1 years ago

signed.

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Elizabeth O.
Elizabeth O1 years ago

Thanks for the article.

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Peter Blattner1 years ago

Signed and shared on FB, Google and Twitter

"One of the greatest shame of humanity is that there must be a word such as animal welfare"

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