APOLLO BEACH, Fla. (WFLA)– Federal officials are considering taking manatees off the endangered species list. Instead, the animal would be reclassified as ‘threatened.’
An official announcement is expected to be made in the coming days. Despite the change, the animal would still have a lot of federal protections in place.
For many years, the Florida manatee has struggled in numbers. Since the 70s, it has been on the endangered species list, and we mainly have ourselves to blame.
“[The manatees] stay in water usually six feet or less when they travel and that’s prime area for boaters,” said Jamie Woodlee with the Manatee Viewing Center.
But, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now considering taking them off the endangered species list. Officials have been surveying the numbers of manatees in the state for the past few years, and it looks like the protective programs are working and the animals are thriving.
“You protect something, the numbers do go back up, but you can’t de-list them completely,” Woodlee said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to de-list the species to ‘threatened’ but many federal protections would still exist for the beloved Florida marine mammal.
“I think anything that comes off the endangered species list is good because that means that we’re changing the environment I would imagine back to the environment these creatures should have,” said Helen Povey, a manatee lover visiting from the UK.
Since our precautions have been so successful, federal officials want to keep it going. That means boaters still need to avoid them and swimmers can’t approach them or feed them. The manatee is a beloved symbol in this state, and officials want to preserve them for future generations to enjoy.
After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces its decision, it will also allow members of the public to give their feedback.