Florida Manatees Are No Longer Endangered

Florida Manatees Are No Longer Endangered

At one time there were estimated to be only a few hundred Florida manatees left. So, in 1973 they were put on the endangered list. And as hoped, their numbers began to flourish once again.

It makes sense, then, that if the Florida manatee is out of harm’s way, so to speak, they should be removed from the endangered list, right? Well, yes and no. Though there are now estimated to be more than 6,000 Florida manatees in the wild, not everyone is thrilled to see their status changed from “endangered” to “threatened”.

With overall manatee numbers in the Caribbean region up around 13,000, and around half of those Florida manatees, the US Fish and Wildlife service went ahead and made the change to their status. This was in order to make way for others who need the services and protections the “endangered” designation affords them.

What landed them on the endangered list in the first place? Unfortunately, it’s human interference, as you might have guessed. The main causes of manatee death, are impacts from boat propellers, and the loss of their natural habitat. Since neither of these root causes has been remedied, the risk of the manatee numbers suffering again in the future is quite high.

Florida Manatees Are Not Out Of The Woods

The Center For Biological Diversity had this to say about the removal: “… manatee numbers have never truly recovered, as the animals must contend with a barrage of manmade threats. Each year, about 87 manatees are killed by collisions with boats, the single greatest cause of premature mortalities. This is more than seven times (the) number of manatees that the Fish and Wildlife Service estimates can be killed without impairing the species’ recovery. Meanwhile, boating in Florida is at an all-time high and increasing…” and “in 2017, the (US Fish & Wildlife) Service downlisted the manatee from “endangered” to “threatened” despite the fact that 2016 had been the deadliest-ever year for manatees.

There are many who echo these sentiments and believe the move is a real blow to the future of manatees. That removing the protections which afforded manatees the chance to beef up their population, will cause their numbers to dwindle once again. Then we’ll be back at square one.

But let’s not forget the really good news in all of this. The manatee population throughout the Caribbean and Southeast US is now estimated at around 13,000. Of those, about half are believed to be Florida manatees. That’s a far cry from the 1970s when only an estimated few hundred remained. So the special attention on these gentle giants and the protection they were previously afforded did have a positive affect. It’s unfortunate that limited resources exist for protecting endangered animals, and their status must be continually reassessed. If the protections they were enjoying did, in fact, make a positive impact, it’s easy to see how removing them will negatively impact their numbers too. Will the Florida manatee’s status have to be looked at again in the future? If the fatalities continue at this rate, it seems quite likely.


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