The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 845-6703

Federal Study: Manatee Death Rate Is Seven Times Sustainable Level

Boat Strikes Are Preventing Species' Recovery


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized new stock
assessments for manatees that puts the population of Florida manatees
at about 3,800 and a Puerto Rico population at 72. The stock-assessment
reports resulted from settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Center for
Biological Diversity that sought updated assessments, since the Service
had flouted its duty under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to publish
yearly reports for more than a decade.

"The Fish
and Wildlife Service's population assessment shows that boats are
carelessly killing manatees," said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney with
the Center for Biological Diversity. "Clearly, far too little is being
done to protect these endangered manatees in Florida."

to the Service's stock-assessment report on the Florida manatee
population, each year about 87 manatees are killed by humans in the
state. This is more than seven times the number of manatees that the
Service estimates can be killed without impairing the species'
recovery. Boats are the primary threat to manatees, which are
frequently struck and killed, or seriously injured, by speeding
vessels. Almost 90 percent of the manatees killed by humans were a
result of such boat strikes. Manatees are also threatened by
water-diversion structures such as dams and entanglement in marine
debris, including derelict fishing gear.

"The one
thing everyone should be able to agree on is that manatees in Florida
and Puerto Rico need more protection from boat collisions to allow them
to survive and recover," said Sakashita.

assessments are required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and are
meant to be used as the basis for management decisions such as those
permitting the killing or harassment of the animals by commercial
fisheries, oil and gas exploration, boating and shipping, and military

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252