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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Proposal to Downlist Manatee



January 7, 2016

Contact: Haley McKey hmckey@defenders.org, (202) 772-0247

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today its proposal to downlist the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. The following is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife:

“The West Indian manatee population is increasing in Florida thanks to the dedicated work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, and other conservation partners in the state. Endangered Species Act protection was crucial to ensuring the survival and success of this species, which was in serious danger of extinction at the time of its listing in 1967. It is vital that all of the protections that helped the manatee begin to recover up to this point remain in place, even if its legal status changes from endangered to threatened. If the manatee rule is finalized as proposed, this would be a double win: a win for manatees and a win for the Endangered Species Act. This will help ensure that the West Indian manatee will thrive in Florida for generations to come.”

The West Indian manatee in Florida is threatened by red tides and the loss of warm-water habitats where manatees can avoid cold stress from frigid winter waters. 2013 was the deadliest year in recent memory for the Florida manatee, when over 800 individuals died. Watercraft collisions remain the leading source of human-caused death for manatees. The manatee population in Florida has grown from just over 1,000 individuals to around 6,350 individuals today. The proposed rule to downlist the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened will be followed by a 90-day comment period.


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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.