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Hope for Florida’s dwindling manatees as review could restore protections

The Florida manatee, a beloved marine mammal, has faced numerous challenges in recent years, including habitat loss, water pollution, boat strikes, and cold stress. It's positive news that there's hope for the manatees as a review could potentially restore protections for these gentle giants.

Dec 14, 2023
entertaiment News

The review and restoration of protections could involve a range of measures to safeguard the manatees and their habitat.

t his might include efforts to reduce water pollution, create and protect manatee sanctuaries, and implement stricter regulations to prevent boat strikes, which have been a significant cause of injury and mortality for manatees. Conservation efforts are essential to ensure the survival and recovery of the Florida manatee population. Public awareness, support, and advocacy play crucial roles in these efforts. The restoration of protections could be a step in the right direction to address the challenges facing manatees and work towards their long-term conservation and well-being.

Changes Sought for Florida Manatee Critical Habitat as Deaths Set New Record More Than 905 Manatees Died in Eight Months Amid Significant Habitat Loss

“Florida manatees desperately need us to help them by cleaning up and protecting their habitat,” said Jaclyn Lopez at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re hopeful the Biden administration will act quickly to secure protections for these gentle giants.” In 2008 the Center, Defenders of Wildlife and Save the Manatee Club petitioned the Service to revise and update the manatee’s critical habitat, originally designated in 1976. In 2010 the Service found such revision is warranted, stating that the “loss of Florida’s warm-water habitats is one of the leading threats facing the manatee population.” But the agency has not moved forward on completing the revision process.

“Manatees are taking hits from every direction, whether it’s loss of warm water habitat, lack of food, vessel strikes, entanglement in marine debris, entrapment in water control structures, harassment and other threats,” said Elizabeth Fleming at Defenders of Wildlife. “By revising the outdated 1976 critical habitat designation, the Biden administration can help secure additional protection for habitat that is essential to manatee survival"

“Tragically, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service minimized the need to update the manatees’ critical habitat and instead proceeded to remove manatees from the list of endangered species despite years of catastrophic seagrass losses in the Indian River Lagoon,” said aquatic biologist and manatee expert Patrick Rose at Save the Manatee Club. “The combination of unprecedented mortality from starvation and serial record-breaking watercraft mortality has led to the recent loss of 20% of the East Coast manatee population in just a six-month period.”

Already this year more than 905 manatees have died, doubling the 5-year annual average in just eight months. More than 50% of these deaths have been in the Indian River Lagoon, a prime year-round manatee foraging habitat that also serves as vital warm water habitat in winter. Many manatees there died of starvation and malnutrition because of nutrient pollution killing off vast areas of seagrass beds. Florida’s southwest coast is now also suffering a devastating red tide that has killed at least 33 manatees. Experts fear these same staggering levels of manatee mortality will repeat next year.

WN, editor
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