Oh the Hu-Manatee! Sea cows removed from endangered species list, still at risk

Oh the Hu-Manatee! Sea cows removed from endangered species list, still at risk
A prominent environmental organization has questioned the US Interior Department’s decision to take manatees off the endangered species list, fearing that the move could put the animal at risk in busy speedboat lanes in Florida.

The giant sea mammal, also known as the sea cow, was moved from the ‘endangered’ to the ‘threatened’ list under the Endangered Species Act on Thursday.

Frank Jackalone, director of the Florida chapter of the environmental group The Sierra Club said the reclassification is likely to relax boating rules designed to protect the sea cow.

“Florida boaters are going to take this as a signal that they can increase their speed in manatee zones,” he said. A reported 104 manatees died from being struck by boaters last year in Florida.

In Florida alone, Manatee populations have surged over the last 50 years, jumping to 6,620 from just a few hundred when the animal was first put on the endangered species list in 1967.

Despite the recent reclassification the Fish and Wildlife Service say it will, “not diminish any existing federal protections that will continue to play a vital role in the recovery of the species.”

Jackalone disagrees, however, saying that the Interior Department failed to take into account the impact that closing Florida power plants will have on the animal, which depends on warm water outflows from the stations during the cold winter months.

The recent downlisting of the manatee follows years of lawsuits against the Fish and Wildlife Service by Save Crystal River Inc, a non-profit organization fearful of more federal regulations in the area.

Commenting on the reclassification, the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service said manatee populations had increased due to improvements in the animal’s habitat led by conservation efforts.

Praising the collaborative efforts, US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said, “Without this type of collaboration and the commitment of state and local partners, this downlisting would not have been possible.”