A growing population of manatees along with the efforts to improve their habitats, federal wildlife officials removed manatees from the endangered species list this month. This is an incredible milestone for the sea cows! Years in the past it appeared that manatees were on their way to extinction, not the other way around.
Today there are as many as 6,600 around the sunshine state, compared to around 1,500 when counts started back in the 90’s. While there is an increase in population for the manatees, there is still a lot of work to be done to fully recover the population, as many live across the span of the Gulf and throughout the Caribbean. Jim Kurt, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s acting director says, “Today we both recognize the considerable progress we have made in conserving manatee populations while reaffirming our commitment to continuing this species’ recovery and success throughout its range.”
Right now, the sea mammals are migrating from their wintering grounds near warmer waters. They will remain protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The MMPA was enacted in 1972 and improved in 1994. The MMPA prohibits the “take” of marine mammals in the U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products in the U.S. In 1994, it was amended to provide preparation of stock assessments for all marine mammal stocks in waters under U.S. jurisdiction and studies of pinned-fishery interactions. The MMPA is implemented by a number of associations, organizations, and conservation plans.
The main objective of the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission is to improve the quality of habitats that are shared closely with human interaction. Nick Wiley, the commission’s executive director said efforts will continue to strengthen the coastal habitats manatees call home. “The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and many partners and citizens have worked collaboratively for years to increase the abundance and health of Florida manatee populations, resulting in a great conservation success story. Given their continuing recovery, FWC supports a reclassification of manatees to threatened and remains committed to working with our partners to maintain the thriving manatee population in Florida.”