For Immediate Release

Ignoring Ongoing Threats, Feds Propose Downlisting Florida Manatee

MIAMI - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal today to downlist the endangered Florida manatee from “endangered” to “threatened.” The proposal comes despite the fact that hundreds of manatees die each year from boat strikes, habitat loss and other causes.

“The Florida manatee has come a long way but is still threatened by boat strikes, cold stress and undiagnosed mass die-offs in the Indian River Lagoon” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “In the face of these chronic and mounting challenges, the Service should not move forward with downlisting without a proven, viable plan for further reducing boat strike mortality and for preserving vital warm water habitat.”

Florida manatees have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1973. By 1979 the Service estimated there were only 800 to 1,000 individuals. Through careful management of the manatee and its habitat, the Service and its Florida partner, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, have helped increase the population of Florida manatees. Today, it is estimated there are about 6,000.

Despite this positive trend, the same threats against the manatee that landed it on the endangered species list persist today. Manatee mortality from all sources has increased since 1973 and these threats limit its ability to fully recover and avoid the ongoing risk of extinction.

Collisions with watercraft are a persistent threat to manatees. A 2014 Center report found that at least 668 manatees died from collisions with watercraft in Florida between 2008 and 2015. Despite these threats, both the Service and Army Corps of Engineers continue to authorize the construction of thousands of projects that facilitate increased watercraft access to Florida waters.

On Dec. 14, 2012, the Service received a petition to downlist the Florida manatee from endangered to threatened. Today’s announcement opens a public comment period.


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