The U.S. Department of the Interior downlisted the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened.
Notable increases in manatee populations and improvements in its habitat allowed the change in status under the Endangered Species Act.
In its review, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service considered the status of the West Indian manatee throughout its range, which includes the Florida manatee subspecies, found primarily in the southeastern United States, and the Antillean manatee, found in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Central America, northern South America and the Greater and Lesser Antilles.
The downlisting means the manatee is no longer considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, but is likely to become so in the foreseeable future without continued legal protections.
Protections such as slow-speed zones will remain in place, and manatees also will continue to be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
Today’s estimated population of 6,620 Florida manatees is a dramatic turnaround from the 1970s, when just a few hundred remained.