West Indian manatees no longer endangered, but still threatened
Manatees are now classified as “threatened,” which means they are no longer thought to be in imminent danger of extinction.
FLORIDA – After decades of efforts to restore the population of manatees in the Caribbean and Florida, US officials have reported success, declaring that the lumbering sea cows are no longer an endangered species.
According to a statement from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the population of West Indian manatees in Florida is now around 6,620, “a dramatic turnaround from the 1970s, when just a few hundred individuals remained.”
The bulky sea cows are now classified as “threatened,” which means that they are protected under the Endangered Species Act but are no longer thought to be in imminent danger of extinction.
The decision applies to the Antillean manatee, found in the Greater and Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.
It also applies to West Indian manatees, which includes the Florida manatee subspecies, found in the south-eastern United States.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s acting director Jim Kurth: “While there is still more work to be done to fully recover manatee populations, particularly in the Caribbean, manatee numbers are increasing and we are actively working with partners to address threats.
“Today we both recognize the significant progress we have made in conserving manatee populations while reaffirming our commitment to continuing this species’ recovery and success throughout its range.”
Last year, when the proposed change in status for manatees was announced, some experts warned that the long-protected sea cows were still vulnerable to a variety of issues including climate change, pollution, and loss of habitat.
The Fish and Wildlife Service statement nevertheless emphasized that the decision “will not diminish any existing federal protections that will continue to play a vital role in the recovery of the species.
“The manatee will also continue to be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” it added.
Manatees were among the first creatures listed on the Endangered Species Protection Act of 1966, along with American alligators, red wolves, grizzly bears and whooping cranes.