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Too Early? Manatees Removed From Endangered Status and Not Everyone Is Happy

Apr 04, 2017 03:30 AM EDT
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Manatees have just been removed from the endangered list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (UFWS), but not everyone is happy about the news.

"Today's estimated population of 6,620 Florida manatees is a dramatic turnaround from the 1970s, when just a few hundred individuals remained," the UFWS announcement said.

While the gentle sea cows have escaped their endangered status, they are still classified as "threatened," which means that they are no longer thought to be in imminent danger of extinction.

Although the UFWS has mentioned in their announcement that they are aware of the remaining challenges in ensuring the manatees' future and that the species will be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, many environmental and animal groups criticized the downgrading. They said the move is premature and will only endanger the manatees' population even more.

In a tweet, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) 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."

Buchanan added that while the manatees would still be protected, the level of protection will be diminished.

Save the Manatee Club, as cited by CNN, claims that while it is true that the manatee population has increased, the number of manatee deaths due to boat-related injuries have increased, too.

Patrick Rose, executive director of Save the Manatee Club, said in a statement that the timing of the federal reclassification results to slimmer chances of long-term survival for manatees.

"With the new federal administration [threatening] 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," Rose added.

The group also cited that UFWS only took note of the West Indian Manatees' population and not other species of manatees such as the Amazonian manatee and the African manatee.

The Center for Biological Diversity released a report in 2014, which found out that the government's fast-track authorization of watercraft-access projects kills an average of 82 manatees each year. They also noted that the number has increased to a hundred in 2016.

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