Manatee proposal shows protections are working February 24, 2016
Manatees may lose their endangered status under a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to reclassify the manatee from endangered to threatened signal that the mammals have made a strong recovery. Federal wildlife managers say the marine mammals have made a robust recovery since first receiving protection in 1967.
The proposal shows that the regulations and actions that have been taken to protect manatees, such as speed limits, no wake zones and raising awareness, have done their job.
“It’s really a success story,” said Jim Valade, Florida Manatee Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the Sun Sentinel. “They still need our attention without a doubt, but they are no longer in intensive care per se.”
A species classified as threatened retains virtually the same protection against being killed, harmed or harassed as one classified as endangered, the Sentinel reported. Government agencies must take them into account in approving construction or other activities that could affect them. No-wake zones and fines for boaters who ignore them will remain in place.
As MIASF’s Patience Cohn told the Sentinel, the species’ recovery shows that the steps that were taken to protect manatees are working. The 90-day comment period ends April 8.
Also, in Riviera Beach, FPL has opened Manatee Lagoon, a free eco-discovery center that offers a dedicated area where visitors can view manatees up close. The 16,000 square foot educational facility sits on five waterfront acres along the Intracoastal Waterway and presents dynamic, hands-on, engaging interactive exhibits for visitors to learn about the endangered and unique Florida manatee and the flora and fauna of the ecosystem it inhabits.
The center offers free admission, two levels of exhibit and meeting space, a boardwalk to observe manatees, picnic areas, pavilion, café and gift shop. Galleries highlight manatee anatomy, migration patterns and the ecosystem of the Lake Worth Lagoon.
For decades, the warm water outflows from the adjacent FPL Riviera Beach plant have attracted hundreds of manatees each year that follow a migration pattern handed down from mother to calf. For more information, go to www.VisitManateeLagoon.com.