Manatee status improved from endangered to threatened, feds say

Credit David Hinkel  USFWS

Notable increases in manatee populations and improvements in its habitat allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to change the species' status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Vern Buchanan (R) is slamming the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for downgrading protections for manatees in his home state, calling the agency announcement Thursday a "huge disappointment". "With ongoing threats posed by boat strikes and habitat loss, we don't support reducing protections through down-listing yet", she said in a release. Some 6,600 are believed to be in Florida, up from a few hundred in the 1970s. The new designation could make some government reviews easier, but Fish and Wildlife officials point out that restrictions in the Marine Mammal Protection Act are still in effect.

The federal agency cites gains in the West Indian manatee's population and habitat.

Jackalone said that the Interior Department decision also failed to address the impact of the closing of ageing Florida power plants whose warm water outflows manatees depend on during cold winter months. Manatees have been classified as endangered since the first federal endangered species list was issued in 1967.

But Frank Jackalone, director of the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club, criticized the decision, saying that local and state authorities likely will ease boating rules created to protect manatees.

The reclassification to threatened status leaves a number of protections in place for manatees, but it may lead to an easing of boating restrictions meant to protect the creatures. "With the new federal administration threating to cut 75% of regulations, including those that protect our wildlife and air and water quality, the move to downlist manatees can only be seen as a political one".

104 manatees died previous year in Florida due to watercraft accidents, according to Reuters.

This is backed up by stats which show that of the 520 manatee deaths previous year, 104 of them were caused by watercraft.

Here are some animals you might not know were once saved from extinction by the Endangered Species Act. "Additionally, countries like Belize have seen a sharp rise in watercraft-related manatee injuries and deaths in recent years and manatees in some of these countries still die at the hands of poachers".

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