Manatee removed from endangered species list

Manatees have experienced a dramatic turnaround and are no longer in imminent danger of extinction

Significant increases in manatee population numbers and noted improvements to the animals' habitats convinced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to downgrade manatees' status from endangered to threatened, as defined by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), FWS representatives announced online today (March 31) in a statement. About 13,000 manatees now live throughout the Caribbean and the southeast U.S. The species is subdivided equally between the Antillean manatee and the Florida manatee.

The U.S. Interior Department relabeled the West Indian manatee as threatened instead of endangered Thursday, a recognition of thousands of sea cows born since government protections began in the 1970s. "The decision to prematurely remove the West Indian manatee from the Endangered Species list lacks scientific justification and is not legally defensible". "Even though the government's acknowledgment of the fact should have come much sooner, we can all applaud the fact that the manatee is substantially on the mend".

The US Fish and Wildlife Service said government, industry and residents are making a difference by reducing manatee deaths and increasing access to natural springs.

This prompted Buchanan to pen a formal objection letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service to emphasize that any push to weaken protections for the manatee would be "misguided and premature".

Federal officials called it a success story for the Endangered Species Act.

He worries the change will encourage development that will harm the manatees' habitat.


Environmental groups also sounded the alarm.

"A federal reclassification at this time will seriously undermine the chances of securing the manatee's long-term survival", Patrick Rose, executive director of the non-profit said.

Diverse conversation efforts and collaborations by Florida and other manatee states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Caribbean nations, public and private organizations and citizens, are credited with the population growth.

The final decision to reclassify manatees is a "milestone" for the species, the federal government reported Thursday.

While the downlisting may not reduce protections, said CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark, "it may create the incorrect impression that the manatee is doing better than it is, and that those protections can be reduced".

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