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Congressman Wants Beleaguered Florida Manatees Listed As Endangered, Rather Than Threatened

Manatees swim in water.
David Hinkle
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Manatees swim in water.

Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan is calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reinstate the manatee’s status as endangered, rather than threatened.

That’s as a staggering 761 of the animals have died since the start of the year, many of them in the Indian River Lagoon. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downlisted the manatee in 2017 to threatened rather than endangered, citing the animal’s rebounding population and habitat. 

Today some 6,500 manatees are estimated to be in Florida, up from only a few hundred in the 1970s. 

Buchanan says he opposed the change in designation at the time and believes the manatee now needs the highest level of federal protections and conservation efforts. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in March designated the manatee die-off as an Unusual Mortality Event, prompting a federal investigation into why the animals are dying. 

An overwhelming majority of the deaths are in the Indian River Lagoon, where widespread harmful algae blooms have led to a loss of seagrass, leaving the animals starving. 

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