Our precious manatees…They are Florida’s unofficial mascot and gentle giants of the sea. Recently, there has been quite a bit of speculation surrounding the manatees and their protection.
Manatees were first placed on the endangered species list in 1967. Then, in 2017, these treasured sea cows were eliminated from the endangered species list and instead downgraded to a classification of “threatened species”.
Many environmental groups and Florida residents believe this decision was a poor one, made prematurely, as evidenced by an all-time high of manatee deaths in 2021 – 1,100. These deaths were largely attributed to pollution and the subsequent depletion of seagrass, which is the manatee’s main source of food.
That same year, wildlife officials stepped in and began to hand-feed Florida’s majestic sea cows in an effort to improve those numbers and save as many manatees as possible. It helped, but there were still 800 manatee deaths in 2022 and 472 as of October 1st of this year.
If manatees are restored to endangered species status, there will be more funding available for projects and staffing to help recover the manatee population, as well as the degradation of the water within our oceans and rivers and the profound effect that has on our aquatic ecosystem. The good news is that federal fish and wildlife officials are taking the manatee crisis very seriously and have begun to review data on manatee deaths and their current habitat.