FWS: Don't Strip Manatees of Their Endangered Status

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has announced that it will consider weakening protection for Florida manatees, but advocates for these peaceful "sea cows" believe they're still facing a barrage of threats and that giving them the greatest level of protection is more important now than ever.

The FWS is being sued by the Pacific Legal Foundation to downgrade West Indian manatees, and its subspecies, Florida and Antillean manatees, from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Florida manatees were listed as endangered in 1967 and their numbers have grown over past few decades, but even now there are estimated to be as few as 4,824.

While manatee numbers have increased over the years, they're still vulnerable to too many threats to warrant a change in their status.

Since the FWS recommended downgrading them in 2007, they've been plagued with record losses and continue to face potential threats that range from climate change, habitat loss and pollution to diseases, harassment, collisions with boaters and a host of environmental problems, including red tide, algal blooms and cold weather.

Now the FWS will be conducting a status review to determine whether changing their status is warranted, while simultaneously conducting its required 5-year status review of manatees.

Please sign the petition asking the FWS not to cave to pressure from anti-environmental organizations and to consider the growing list of threats to manatees that warrant keeping them listed as endangered.

As someone who is concerned with wildlife management and the fate of Florida's manatees, I am writing to express my concern about the lawsuit that was recently filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to strip manatees of their status as endangered species and downgrade them to threatened.

While manatee numbers have increased over the years, they're still vulnerable to too many threats to warrant a change in their status. Since the FWS recommended downgrading them in 2007, they've been plagued with record losses and continue to face threats that range from climate change, habitat loss and pollution to diseases, harassment, collisions with boaters and a host of environmental problems, including red tide, algal blooms and cold weather.

Their reliance on warm water and the potential loss of manmade sources of heat, which they've come to rely on, also raises serious concerns. According to the FWS, nearly two-thirds of the manatee population winters at industrial warm-water sites, which are now made up almost entirely of power plants.

With so few of these gentle giants in Florida waters, and the potential to lose more en masse, I sincerely hope that your agency will not cave to pressure from anti-environmental organizations and keep manatees listed as endangered.

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