approximately 2,000 manatees died The past two years in Florida’s coastal and inland waterways have prompted a coalition of environmental groups to demand an immediate reclassification of the species as officially endangered.
Advocates led by the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity say the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) made a critical error in 2017 downgrading ahead of time The status of the giant aquatic mammals ranges from endangered to merely threatened.
The move, they say, removed important federal protections for the species, sometimes known as the sea cow, and allowed an almost uncontrolled decline in numbers after a previous revival.
During 2021, 1,015 manatees killedAccording to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, pollution and habitat loss through mass starvation destroyed vast areas of the seagrass vegetation on which they depended for food.
A further 745 deaths have been recorded as of 18 November this year, a two-year decline in numbers that account for 19% of the Atlantic population, and 13% of all manatees. Floridacoalition states.
“With hundreds of Florida manatees now dead, it is painfully clear that the 2017 federal decision to delist the species was scientifically unfounded,” said Ragan Whitlock, Florida-based attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.
“fish and wildlife Now is the chance for the service to rectify its mistake and protect these endangered animals.”
Alliance, which includes Harvard Law School Animal Law and Policy ClinicThe save the manatee club And Miami Water Guardhas petitioned the Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, and the FWS Director, Martha Williams, for change.
“Since the manatee was down-listed to near-threatened in 2017, it has become more vulnerable and will continue to be adversely affected by natural and man-made threats,” they argue 156 page document,
“Growing human populations and increased commercial development will further exacerbate these existing threats, and the ongoing effects of climate change … will harm the manatee’s critical habitat.”
The FWS has 90 days to determine whether restoring the manatee to endangered status is necessary. If it does, it has another nine months to complete its review of the manatee’s status.
In a statement to the Guardian, the FWS said it is aware of the groups’ request, and that “service staff will review the petition through our normal petition procedures”.
A species is considered “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act if it is “at risk of extinction in all or a significant portion of its range”. A “threatened” species may become endangered in the near future.
Environmentalists blame pollution from wastewater treatment plants, septic system leaks, fertilizer runoff and other sources for poisoning waterways where manatees were once abundant, and killing seagrass.
Particularly affected is the Indian River Lagoon, where the coalition says more than half of Florida’s specimens are. chronically exposed to glyphosateA powerful herbicide applicable to sugarcane and aquatic weeds.
Advocates say that glyphosate-containing discharge from Lake Okeechobee has resulted in high concentrations of the herbicide in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
“With the astonishing loss of seagrass around the state, we need to address water quality issues to give manatees a chance to survive and thrive,” said Rachel Silverstein, executive director of Miami Waterkeeper.
The Vegetation Shortage Is So Severe That Officials Are Relaunching Feeding program introduced last year This provides lettuce in areas where manatees congregate. When the program ended in April, more than 202,000lb of lettuce, mostly funded by public donations, had been distributed, with agency officials saying that “really good job,
Savannah Bergeron, an eighth-generation Floridian and student advocate at the Harvard Animal Law and Policy Clinic, said restoration of endangered status for the manatee would be an important first step.
“Resolving the current long-term threats facing the manatee will take years or even decades of concerted action,” she said.
“At the very least we can ensure that manatees are given protection under the Endangered Species Act, especially since they are so important to our coastal ecosystems and are one of Florida’s iconic species.”