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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

8/10/2014 (9 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Conservationists not happy with current plans, saying animals are still rare and valuable

Visitors to Florida frequently come across blubbery animals called manatees. Resembling walruses, the comical creatures can be found along the heavily populated Florida coast. Now - there is a movement to reclassify the manatees status from "endangered" to the less urgent term of "threatened," something that isn't sitting well with conservationists.

Reaching weights as high as 3,500 pounds, manatees make a home where there are plentiful sea grasses and freshwater from estuaries and slow-moving rivers.

Reaching weights as high as 3,500 pounds, manatees make a home where there are plentiful sea grasses and freshwater from estuaries and slow-moving rivers.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

8/10/2014 (9 months ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Manatess, Florida, endangered, threatened


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Reaching weights as high as 3,500 pounds, manatees make a home where there are plentiful sea grasses and freshwater from estuaries and slow-moving rivers. These "sea cows" come into conflict with humans, especially through boat collisions. It's rare to find a manatee that hasn't been struck, to the point that scars and gouges are commonly used to identify the survivors.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or FWS is considering reclassifying manatees down to "threatened" status, a process that could take at least a year.

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"Manatee mortality" has increased dramatically over the past several years.

"Manatee mortality" has increased dramatically over the past several years.


Protections for endangered species are fixed by law. Those for threatened species can be reduced by administrative decision. While manatees would still remain protected, the move to become merely "threatened" would allow restrictions to be lessened for waterfront development and allow boaters to drive at faster speeds.

This has left some activists outraged.  "It would be a foolish thing to down-list manatees now," Patrick Rose, executive director of Save the Manatee Club says. One of the world's leading experts on manatees, Rose was the first federal coordinator for manatee recovery in Florida. "I call them the 'tugboat' species because of the political tug of war involving these animals," he added.

While manatees would still remain protected, the move to become merely "threatened" would allow rest

While manatees would still remain protected, the move to become merely "threatened" would allow restrictions to be lessened for waterfront development and allow boaters to drive at faster speeds.


However, some wildlife officials disagree about the threat posed by the possible change. "People have misperceptions that we have two lists. It's one classification. Being endangered or threatened relates to whether a species is moving toward extinction or not. Manatees will remain protected," Chuck Underwood, FWS spokesperson says.

"Manatee mortality" has increased dramatically over the past several years. Last year, scientists were baffled when more than 800 manatees perished in different parts of the state. On the west coast, there were toxin-producing algal blooms known as red tide that settled on sea grasses manatees eat.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or FWS is considering reclassifying manatees down to "threatened

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or FWS is considering reclassifying manatees down to "threatened" status, a process that could take at least a year.


It was theorized that the microscopic algae could be occurring more frequently due to increasing amounts of nutrients from lawns and farmlands being absorbed into the waterways. On the east coast, an unprecedented cover of algae bloomed across 47,000 acres of coastline and smothered sea grasses. Dead manatees, pelicans and dolphins washed up on shore.

Over a longer timescale, the manatee herds appear to be doing well. Before 2007, manatee populations gained ground so well that in the FWS five-year review, the animals were considered good candidates to be reclassified to threatened status.

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