FL - 'Starting to get worse': U.S. Fish and Wildlife considering more manatee protections
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Manatees may become an endangered species again.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made them a threatened species back in 2017. Now, the federal agency says they may have acted too soon.
From starvation and boat collisions to climate change, experts say Florida’s beloved sea cows are in trouble.
"The trend is in the wrong direction," said Pat Rose. He’s the executive director for the Save the Manatee Club which is a non-profit committed to worldwide manatee protection and preservation.
Rose is also an aquatic biologist who’s been part of manatee restoration for decades in Florida. Save the Manatee Club joined with the Center for Biological Diversity, Harvard Animal Law & Policy Clinic, Miami Waterkeeper and Frank S. González García to submit a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking them to reconsider the decision that moved manatees from "endangered" to "threatened".
"They never should have been down-listed in the first place," Rose added.
The change cut staffing levels of people working to protect the animals.
"We’re down to really only about two people who work full time to help protect manatees for all of Florida, for all of southeast U.S.," said Rose.
This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife issued a new decision, saying there’s enough data to re-evaluate the issue.
The agency has a year to look at science and research relating to manatee restoration. Rose says the federal agency didn’t plan ahead for the algae blooms and mass starvation events that killed thousands of manatees in Florida over the past few years.
"The problem is, they were looking at so much at what had improved, and they took their eye off the ball to see it was starting to get worse," he said.
Researchers will continue trying to save manatees as they wait for more federal protections which they say would not only help save the species but also make sure people still want to live and visit Florida.
"People are not going to want to come to Florida and smell that stinky water from all the dying animals in it. Real estate values are going to plummet, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to fix this right," Rose concluded.
It’s critical to keep an eye out for injured and dead manatees to help researchers study the issue. If you ever see a manatee in danger or deceased, call FWC at: 888-404-FWCC(3922).