Published: Sat, April 01, 2017
Science | By Carlton Santiago

West Indian manatee go from 'endangered' to 'threatened

West Indian manatee go from 'endangered' to 'threatened

The West Indian manatee is no longer considered endangered thanks to population growth and improvement in conditions of the species' habitat, federal authorities said Thursday.

Jim Kurth of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that more work needs to be done in order to save the manatee populations.

Earlier this year, it was announced that a Florida manatee census topped 6,000 for the third year in a row compared to the first five years of the survey when fewer than 2,000 manatees were spotted.

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

Despite the agency's assertion that a downlisting would not affect federal protections for the manatee, a move from endangered to threatened could cause a broader reassessment of state and local protections for the animals, Buchanan's office said. The manatee will still be protected as a threatened species, and it will still enjoy state and local protections. There is, for instance, a growing trend by manatees to huddle in cooler winters waters in artificial habitats created by power plants.

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

Buchanan said he planned to contact the Secretary of the Interior to ask him to reconsider and overturn the decision.

Just because manatees are not officially endangered anymore doesn't mean those measures are also being removed though, as it is more important than ever to maintain the current momentum and continue to rejuvenate populations around the world. In addition, the group called out President Trump for threatening to do away with environmental regulations, including those that protect wildlife and water quality.

Minimizing manatee interactions with boats, which are frequently lethal to the animals, will be a priority for FWS in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard and with coastal communities in Florida, the representatives added.

Patrick Rose, the club's executive director, sees it as one sign of Washington's larger U-turn on environmental issues. "A federal reclassification at this time will seriously undermine the chances of securing the manatee's long-term survival".

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