Earlier this year, manatees were officially removed from the endangered list. An increase in the overall manatee populations and much needed improvements to their habitats steered the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to downgrade protections for the species from “endangered” to “threatened.” Although this is certainly good news, it has left some feeling a little nervous that the guard will come down and levels of carelessness when it comes to manatees will once again rise.
The Center for Biological diversity stated that 2016 was the deadliest year thus far for manatees. “Manatees are still in danger. With ongoing threats posed by boat strikes and habitat loss, we don’t support reducing protections,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director for the center, according to USA Today.
Though the note to remain cautious remains, the downgrade marks an important breakthrough. Approximately 13,000 manatees currently live throughout parts of the Caribbean and the southeastern portion of the United States. The species is divided equally between the Antillean manatee and the Florida manatee. This number strongly contrasts the population of years in the past when it sadly appeared that manatees might be headed towards extinction. The current approximate population of the Florida manatees alone is 6,620, which also represents a dramatic turnaround from the 1970s when only a few hundred Florida manatees remained, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The manatee was first placed on the endangered species list in 1973.
“Today we both recognize the significant progress we have made in conserving manatee populations while reaffirming our commitment to continuing this species’ recovery and success throughout its range,” said Jim Kurth, Acting Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, decides which animals need to be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Federal protections are to remain in place for manatees.
When the announcement of their removal from the endangered list was made, many criticized the move, including Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., who said, “The decision to weaken protections under the Endangered Species Act threatens the survival of the manatee, one of Florida’s most beloved animals.” “It needs to be reversed,” added Buchanan.
Manatees face a range of threats to their existence, including being injured and/or killed by watercrafts, loss of habitat, and red time, Buchanan pointed out.
Environmental groups also expressed their dismay with the decision. “We believe this is a devastating blow to manatees,” said Patrick Rose, Executive Director of the Save the Manatees Club. “A federal reclassification at this time will seriously undermine the changes of securing the manatee’s long-term survival,” added Rose.
With great attention to these concerns, a vast amount of respect for manatees and their existence, and great care, Manatee Eco Tours out of Naples allows visitors to view these beautiful animals in their habitats, safe from harm, and is dedicated to sharing their knowledge about these wonderful creatures and how important it is to keep them safe.