Man, this holiday season is keeping me waaaay too busy. I just wanted to post a quick update about the manatee status I recently blogged about. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to keep manatees on the state’s endangered species list, the Bradenton Herald and other sources reported. Apparently, Gov. Charlie Crist also wanted manatees to remain on the state endangered list (as they are on the federal endangered list).
Archive for manatees
Manatees, considered an endangered species by the federal government and the state of Florida, could lose their endangered status by the state today when the state wildlife agency votes, the Tampa Tribune and other sources report.
Back in September, Gov. Charlie Crist asked the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to hold off on voting whether to downlist the manatee to threatened status. Now the time to vote has rolled around again, and the FWC will consider a different classification for manatees.
Photo from U.S. Geological Survey
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.
A few weeks ago, we heard that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission might cut 90 enforcement positions, many of which help patrol manatee speed zones. But today, the St. Petersburg Times reports Governor Charlie Crist opposes cutting so many FWC staff positions. Seems Crist thinks law enforcement is a priority, so the FWC will have to find another way to cut spending. Today’s article has some other good information on manatee patrols and deaths.
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!
After Governor Charlie Crist recently asked the state wildlife agency to wait on deciding whether to downlist manatees, today the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission agreed to wait. The FWC will delay voting on whether to change the manatee’s status from endangered to threatened until at least December, when the agency meets again.
Although many people are saying manatees won’t suffer from less protection if they are classified as threatened rather than endangered, just take a look at the first two links in this post. Besides, as many others are saying, if the manatee’s status is changed, it might give the perception that their population is doing all right when it really isn’t. As mentioned yesterday, a record 417 manatees died last year. People continue to be unaware of — or to ignore — manatee protection rules. And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still considers manatees endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
I know the FWC is meeting in December and might decide then to downlist manatees, but I think it would be better to wait until after the first couple weeks of the year, when the manatee mortality numbers from all of 2007 are finally in.
Just as the Florida state wildlife agency was planning to take the manatee off its list of endangered species, Governor Charlie Crist asked for a delay. Probably every news outlet in Florida is reporting that one of Crist’s reasons for the delay is that 417 manatees died last year, a record number.
Gulp. 417? Wow.
Crist apparently also wants to give his new appointees time to review the proposed manatee plan before voting.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the manatee will keep its endangered status — only that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s vote to downlist the manatee will be delayed.
The federal government’s endangered status of the manatee isn’t affected by whatever the state of Florida decides to do. That is, if Florida decides to change the manatee’s status to threatened instead of endangered, the U.S. status remains endangered. It’s interesting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service thinks manatees are endangered, but the FWC doesn’t.
Photo from U.S. Geological Survey