Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 30, 2017

Contact: Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190,

Fish and Wildlife Service Moves Florida Manatee Status From 'Endangered' to 'Threatened'

Endangered Species Protection Dramatically Improved Numbers, But Threats Persist

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it is downlisting the Florida manatee from “endangered” to “threatened” — despite hundreds of manatees still dying each year from boat strikes, habitat loss and other causes.

In fact, 2016 was the deadliest year to date.

“Thanks to the safety net of the Endangered Species Act, broad public support and conservation efforts by the state, manatee numbers have improved over the past few decades,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But manatees are still in danger. With ongoing threats posed by boat strikes and habitat loss, we don't support reducing protections through downlisting yet.”

Florida manatees have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1973. By 1979, the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated, there were only 800 to 1,000 individuals. Through careful management of the manatee and its habitat, the Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have helped increase the animals' population, and there are now more than 6,000 manatees in Florida.

Despite this positive trend, the threats that landed the manatee on the endangered species list — principally boat strikes and habitat loss — persist today at virtually the same rates. Indeed manatee mortality from all sources has increased since 1973, and threats restrict the animals' ability to truly recover from being threatened with extinction.

A 2014 Center for Biological Diversity report found at least 668 manatees died from collisions with boats in Florida between 2008 and 2014. Despite this both the Service and Army Corps of Engineers continue to authorize construction of thousands of projects that facilitate increased watercraft access to Florida waters.

Florida manatee

Photo courtesy USFWS. Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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