The Florida manatee may be getting taken off the endangered species list in the near future!
If you know anything about the manatee, then you realize that this is a really big deal. The manatee, specifically the West Indian Manatee, has been on the endangered species list since 1967. That is almost 50 years! The manatee has been divided into subspecies, the Florida manatee and Caribbean manatee. They can be found throughout the waters in the Americas.
It is a known fact that manatees are a very charismatic and easy to recognize creature. Michael Bean, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, stated, “It’s hard to imagine the waters of Florida without them. That was the reality we were facing before manatees were listed under the Endangered Species Act.”
This past Thursday, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service announced the proposal. They were to remove the mammal from the list and change it’s classification to “threatened”. The population of manatees is now at 13,000 worldwide. Almost half of those numbers are found in Florida waters. This is their reasoning behind changing the classification to the species.
They are not denying that there’s still work to be done to aid the manatee in it’s species recovery. They are only saying that the numbers of the manatees are climbing and that the removal is warranted. There is a problem that still remains, however, and that is the danger that boaters pose to this species.
Boaters and developers that is, they have been after the removal of this classification for several years. They believe that the restrictions that have been placed on the animals are too strict. The conservationists, like myself, believe the opposite. The manatee should be protected, because when the restrictions are removed, boaters and developers will wreak havoc on their numbers. It will put us back to square one, and diminish the numbers we have worked so hard to get to. The numbers of manatee population are not stable and fluctuate up and down. This is not cause for their removal from protection that they are high in number for the time being.
The executive director of the Save the Manatee Club stated, “Between 2010 and 2013 the population went backwards and they’re not even talking about that, to suggest the threats are controlled is just not the way to approach it.”
Thankfully, the change in classification is not said to change the federal protections as the boaters and developers would like for them to. However, the question remains whether or not the manatee population has stabilized enough for this change in classification. If it is to pass, I surely hope so. These harmless beasts need to be protected, and yes the really are as harmless as these images show. I have had the pleasure of swimming with them once and it was amazing.
The truth may be that the number of manatees in the Florida waters are higher than they have been in decades, the number of fatalities tracked by Florida Fish and Wildlife is still hundreds every single year! In 2013, there were 830 confirmed deaths of manatees! If nearly a thousand are dying a year, and the population is only 13,000 manatees, I think we need to rethink our change in classification for now. It is obvious that the threats to the species are still current and not yet resolved.
The final decision will be made later this year, and until that time the Fish and Wildlife plan to focus on increasing the sea cow’s numbers and making their habitat a safer place.
Here’s a short video for you to enjoy on this topic: