With cited significant improvements in the manatee’s population and habitat conditions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed the removal of the marine mammal from the endangered species list. Instead it will be considered as a “threatened” species. A threatened species is considered one that is likely to become endangered in the future. The chubby creatures were among the first species added to the endangered species list in 1972. In 1991 there were only an estimated 1,267 manatees in Florida. Currently, there are more than 6,300 manatees in Florida.
With this change, lots of controversy has stirred over this proposal. Many environmentalists worry that the move will strip the sea cow of protections that are very important to its survival. In a news conference at the Miami Seaquarium on Jan. 7, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that they “called the down-listing a positive move signaling a recovery and stressed that the change would not reduce protections already in place.” With no natural predators, the manatee’s biggest threats came from human activity. Modern-days boaters ran them down by the hundreds. This has led to boat speed regulations that many feel would soon be affected by this set of removal. Other critics also argue that the agency is acting foolish by not including recent death models.
Overall, the lovely manatee has taken quite a beating in past years, but people are very glad to see its population numbers turn around in a positive way. The official removal of the manatee is not set in stone, but the January proposal is now open to the public’s comment for ninety days, and a public hearing will be held on Feb. 20 in Orlando.