For Immediate Release, December 29, 2009
Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 845-6703
Federal Study: Manatee Death Rate Is Seven Times Sustainable Level
Boat Strikes Are Preventing Species' Recovery
SAN FRANCISCO— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized new stock assessments for manatees that puts the population of Florida manatees at about 3,800 and a Puerto Rico population at 72. The stock-assessment reports resulted from settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity that sought updated assessments, since the Service had flouted its duty under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to publish yearly reports for more than a decade.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s population assessment shows that boats are carelessly killing manatees,” said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Clearly, far too little is being done to protect these endangered manatees in Florida.”
According to the Service’s stock-assessment report on the Florida manatee population, each year about 87 manatees are killed by humans in the state. This is more than seven times the number of manatees that the Service estimates can be killed without impairing the species’ recovery. Boats are the primary threat to manatees, which are frequently struck and killed, or seriously injured, by speeding vessels. Almost 90 percent of the manatees killed by humans were a result of such boat strikes. Manatees are also threatened by water-diversion structures such as dams and entanglement in marine debris, including derelict fishing gear.
“The one thing everyone should be able to agree on is that manatees in Florida and Puerto Rico need more protection from boat collisions to allow them to survive and recover,” said Sakashita.
Stock assessments are required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and are meant to be used as the basis for management decisions such as those permitting the killing or harassment of the animals by commercial fisheries, oil and gas exploration, boating and shipping, and military exercises.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 240,000 members and online activists dedicated to protecting endangered species and wild places. www.biologicaldiversity.org