For Immediate Release, July 1, 2014

Contact: Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190,

Feds to Consider Weakening Manatee Protections

Boat Collisions, Unexplained Die-offs Threaten Florida Marine Mammals

Florida manatee
Photo courtesy USFWS. Photos are available for media use.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— Despite ongoing uncertainty about the size of manatee populations and numerous unchecked threats to its survival, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it will consider weakening protections for the endangered marine mammal. The decision to engage in a year-long study to make a final status determination under the Endangered Species Act comes as the Florida manatee population continues to be threatened by cold-stress die-offs, collisions with watercraft, red tide events and mysterious deaths in the Indian River Lagoon system.

“Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, the Florida manatee has shown a slow, but steady improvement over the past 40 years,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida-based attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But numerous significant threats to this animal’s survival still pose a clear and present danger, and it’s premature to suggest their protection should be reduced.”

Despite the manatee’s protected status under federal and state law, watercraft remain the leading cause of human-caused mortality for the manatee. Boats and other watercraft kill and seriously injure manatees by crushing them with their hulls or cutting them with their propeller blades. There is no statistically robust estimate reflecting the current total population size of manatees in Florida, but the most recent synoptic survey in January recorded 4,824 manatees, a slight decrease from 4,834 in 2011 and 5,076 in 2010.

Learn more about what the Center is doing to protect manatees.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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