February 25, 2016

Manatee count shows population continues to grow

By Christina M. Martin Attorney

The manatee population continues to grow in Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s newest survey results. Each winter, when weather conditions permit, the FWC conducts an aerial survey with a team of observers who fly around the state’s warmer waters where manatees typically congregate. Last year, the FWC counted a record-breaking 6,063 manatees. This year, they counted even more: 6,250. This bodes well for the species and for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed rule to downlist the manatee from “endangered” to “threatened.”

As our readers will recall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally proposed to reclassify the manatee last month, after years of prodding by Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of our client, Save Crystal River. The Service’s own biologists acknowledged back in 2007 that the manatee was no longer in danger of extinction and thus should be reclassified as threatened. At that time, there were an estimated 3,300 manatees. But the Service did not act on its own experts’ advice, and instead entertained proposals to increase regulations in and around Crystal River, Florida. In 2012, PLF filed a petition to reclassify the manatee, on behalf of Save Crystal River, a nonprofit community group in Citrus County Florida that is restoring habitat around Kings Bay, Florida. PLF had to file two lawsuits to force the government to act on the petition, but in January, the Service proposed to downlist the manatee, admitting that it is not in danger of extinction, and therefore not legally qualified for the “endangered” status. Today’s survey results make it even more clear that we all have cause to celebrate that conservation efforts have succeeded.

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