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Florida Wildlife Federation advocates for manatees to be upgraded to endangered species list

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 5:12 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Scientists say the waterways where manatees live are polluted and food sources are dying off. The Florida Wildlife Federation says 833 West Indian Manatees have died from January through June this year. That’s why some advocates are asking that they be put back on the endangered species list.

Manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, can often be found swimming along Florida’s shoreline, including along the Big Bend. In 2017, they were removed from the endangered species list after 40 years.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services down listed the manatees from endangered to threatened cause they thought the population was doing well enough that it could be down listed, afforded slightly less protection,” Preston Robertson, President of the Florida Wildlife Federation stated.

But now, more manatees are dying as their habitat is tainted.

“The sea grass beds have died off. This is due to several harmful algal blooms that have come through the area as well as overall low light levels,” Dr. Iske Larkin, Director of the University of Florida’s Aquatic Animal Health program described.

Scientists say the threat indicates a bigger problem.

“We get a heads up on issues that are, that impact a large number of other species such as fish that are often favorites of recreational fishermen. Sea grass beds that also provide critical habitat for so many animals and water quality,” Dr. Larkin said.

The Florida Wildlife Federation, now pushing to have manatees added back to the endangered species list, hoping to increase awareness.

“What we’re really trying to do is show a spotlight on this iconic animal and that they’re in bad shape and we need to take all the resources we can to protect them. Save the manatee, you save the rest of the aquatic critters that we all love,” Robertson explained.

To help protect manatees you can donate to the Florida Wildlife Federation and if you’re a boater, make sure to go slowly through areas where manatees are often seen, such as the St. Marks River. You can also sign the Florida Wildlife Federations petition to put manatees back in the Endangered Species List by clicking here.

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