Officers who patrol the water in manatee speed zones have a hard time getting the public to care about manatees sometimes, a Naples Daily News article reports. But “boaters don’t ever want to harm the manatees,” according to a different source, NBC2 News. I suspect both sources are right and it just depends on whom you talk to.
These comments came from a statewide law enforcement conference held in Lee County, where officials discussed the possible downlisting of the manatee from endangered to threatened. The conference was supposedly held in Lee County because that county has the highest number of manatees killed by boats in the state so far this year: 13. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s twice as many as Volusia and Brevard counties, which tie for the second-highest number of manatee/watercraft fatalities.
Manatees love the Caloosahatchee River, which flows from Lake Okeechobee west to the Gulf of Mexico. Boaters also love that area, too, though, and Lee County has one of the highest number of boat registrations in the state, the article says. Boats and manatees together in the same place usually mean manatees injured and killed by boats.
At the conference, the article says, officials told law enforcement that a “threatened” status wouldn’t change protections for manatees. And that led some at the conference to wonder why the manatee would be downlisted, then, because that would just confuse people.
If some of the people out on the water already don’t care about manatees, as the first article said, then changing the manatees’ status sure won’t help.
The United States has it Endangered Species Act with its list of animals and plants that are in danger of extinction. States have their own lists. Sometimes, the criteria to put species on the list or take them off are different. Sometimes, they disagree.
This is clear in the case of manatees. They have been all over the news the past week because the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was planning to change the manatee’s status from endangered to threatened. Then Governor Charlie Crist asked the FWC to wait on their decision. Then today’s St. Petersburg Times has an article explaining how the federal government isn’t allowing several hundred new boat slips in the bay area because of concern there are already too many boats in a place where manatees hang out. It’s also a part of Tampa Bay where there aren’t manatee speed zones and too many manatees have apparently already been hit and killed by boats.
The folks who want the new boat docks are upset and say manatees aren’t endangered anymore. The state is even saying manatees aren’t endangered anymore. But the feds are (for now, anyway), continuing to protect manatees as endangered.
This reminds me so much of science lab in school, when different teams in class would come up with different measurements or equations by following the same steps from the teacher. Only back then, the teacher allowed only one answer to be correct, so some lab teams’ answers would be marked down.
If state and federal biologists are looking at science to base their decisions for protecting manatees, why are they so different? The answer, of course, is politics. Sometimes, politics are in favor of certain species. Sometimes, popular favor sides against a species. It’s almost too bad citizens couldn’t do their own research to know what is what — but then, just like in science lab, we’d probably still all come up with different answers!