Should the manatee be down-listed?

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Federal officials are mulling the idea of downgrading the status of the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened, a move which could make it easier to loosen boating speed limits and other restrictions in Florida.

The good news, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is that manatees have rebounded.

After a five-year review, staff biologists concluded the manatee no longer fits the definition of endangered. The Florida Fish and Wildlife had similar findings, and last year approved a controversial measure to down-list the manatee.

Environmental groups such as Save the Manatee Club are outraged, saying that downgrading the animal’s status undermines years of conservation efforts. They say measures such as enforced boat speed limits and rigid dock permitting rules are necessary to protect the manatee. Propeller strikes and loss of habitat, along with red tide, are the greatest threats to the manatee.

The marine industry has been lobbying to relax restrictions.

Soundings Trade Only would like to hear your opinions. Are speed limits and dock restrictions intended to protect manatees too severe? Or should federal and state officials continue aggressive measures to protect the animal? Should the manatee be down-listed, or is it too soon?

JoAnn W. Goddard
Associate Editor
Soundings Trade Only

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