Oct 16, 2023 - News

Florida manatees may go back on the endangered species list

About a dozen manatees swim beneath blue-green water.

Manatees gather in Blue Springs State Park. Photo: Zack Wittman for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Florida manatees could go back on the endangered species list, a move that would give the beloved sea cows additional protections after thousands of deaths over the past several years.

Driving the news: Federal fish and wildlife officials announced last week that they will conduct a scientific review into whether they should reclassify the Western Indian manatee from threatened to endangered. That species includes the Florida manatee.

Why it matters: It's been a rough few years for one of the Sunshine State's unofficial mascots. Between 2017 and 2019, the manatee population fell by an average of close to 7% per year, environmental groups said in 2022 in their petition to the feds to reclassify the animals.

Context: West Indian manatees are currently listed as a "threatened" species, meaning they're at risk of becoming endangered.

  • Federal officials removed them from the endangered list in 2017, which environmental groups contend was a mistake.

What they're saying: "This is the right call for manatees and everyone who cares about these charming creatures," Ragan Whitlock, a Florida-based attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

  • "I applaud the Fish and Wildlife Service for taking the next step toward increased safeguards. Manatees need every ounce of protection they can get."
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