Despite mounting threats to Florida manatees, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is under growing pressure to reduce legal protections for these remarkable and endangered animals.
The pressure to reduce protections for Florida manatees is coming from boaters and other special interests who resent existing protections such as slow speed zones in manatee-inhabited waters. But these are exactly the sorts of measures that have helped the manatee population and they remain necessary for their survival.
Manatees remain one of Defenders’ top conservation priorities. We’re counting on you to speak up!
Demand that FWS retain the current level of protection that endangered manatees deserve and require for their recovery!
I am writing to urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain the current level of protection for the Florida manatee to assure their survival and recovery. We understand that the Service is under pressure from boaters, marine contractors, private-property rights advocates and other special interests to reclassify the manatee to threatened in the hopes of achieving rolled back protections, such as slower speed zones. These and other protective measures have been instrumental in helping the manatee population to improve over the years and will be necessary to sustain the population going forward.
The Service needs to establish objective recovery criteria before it can consider changing the listing status of the manatee. And in its status review of the Florida manatee, the Fish and Wildlife Service must use the best available scientific information, including incorporating the unprecedented events of 2010 (cold) and 2013 (algal blooms), when a record number of manatees died (nearly 1,600 animals). The Service will need time to evaluate the impacts of these unusual mortality events on manatee reproduction and population growth. The manatee's habitat remains far from secure. Acute and recurring problems in the Indian River Lagoon, Lake Okeechobee, Southwest Florida, Kings Bay, natural warm-water springs and many other important areas underscore the need to better protect manatee habitat. Electric power plants will no longer be reliable sources of warm water in the future.
The Florida manatee continues to face numerous severe threats, and many recovery actions, such as setting minimum flows and levels for warm water springs and revising manatee critical habitat, remain unfinished. These vital recovery actions need to be completed before the Service should consider changing the listing status of the manatee. The manatee was not listed due to its population size but due to human-caused threats it faced at the time, including loss of habitat and collisions with boats, threats which remain today and are likely to worsen in the future.
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