CONTACT: Henry Cabbage (850) 488-8843
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff will recommend to its Commissioners to postpone possible downlisting of manatees from "endangered" to "threatened." Commissioners had scheduled action on the downlisting proposal for their Jan. 22-24 meeting at Ft. Myers.
FWC executive director, Kenneth Haddad, said deciding the issue now would further polarize the public at a time when various factions are arguing and litigating to increase or decrease manatee protection efforts. Also, he said experts who reviewed the FWC’s manatee biological status review did not reach a consensus, and concerned parties have not had time to review a refined draft of the document, which concludes manatees no longer qualify as endangered under the FWC’s criteria.
Meanwhile, the FWC is reconvening a panel to re-evaluate the listing process.
Haddad said another good reason to postpone the decision is that many interested parties on both sides of the issue are in favor of the delay, although for different reasons. Some would like more time to build their case for retaining the endangered classification, M O R E while others hope to convince officials that manatees should be classified in the"species of special concern" category. That listing category would acknowledge that manatees require special management attention while not suggesting the species is in imminent danger of extinction within the next century.
Regardless of the listing category, manatee protection efforts are based on a management plan that is rooted in the species’ needs. Protection efforts will not change automatically if the species’ classification changes or even if it were removed from the imperiled species list altogether.
FWC staff has not decided on a timeline for reconsidering the downlisting issue.
Manatees also are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and that agency has no announced plans to reconsider its classification of manatees under federal criteria.

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