Since I was young, the manatees have always been endangered. In 1991, only 1,267 of them were counted in the waters off Florida. Today, that number is 6,300 and growing. Manatee populations have rebounded by 500%!
In total, there are 13,000 manatees in and outside of Florida waters. This has lead the US Fish and Wildlife Service to downgrade their status to “threatened” instead of endangered.
“While there is still more work to be done to fully recover manatee populations, their numbers are climbing and the threats to the species’ survival are being reduced,” Michael Bean at the Department of the Interior said in a news release.
Conservation efforts to save the manatee has obviously succeeded, yet the threats to their existence continue to rise as well.
While the animal has recovered, thousands have also perished due to red tides, boating accidents, and uncontrolled local runoff, which leaches sewage and polluted freshwater into their lagoons.
Conversely, rescue efforts of manatees have been incredibly successful. In 2015 alone, 89 manatees were taken in by the Marine Mammal Pathobiology Lab for treatment of injuries, and 54 of them have so far been released.
Some aren’t too excited about the downgrade in status. The downgrade means that the Florida Legislature can review “slow speed zones” for boats, which are a direct threat to manatees.
Still, the progress manatees have made is significant. The presence of their typical threats certainly does pose a risk to this progress though.
“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,” Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release.
Manatees, regardless of the status downgrade, will still receive all the same protections from the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978.