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Manatee Experts Raise Concerns About Proposal To Reclassify Endangered Animal As Threatened

Credit: David Hinkle  USFWS
Credit: David Hinkle USFWS

Scientists invited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to weigh in on a proposal to reclassify the West Indian manatee as threatened rather than endangered are arguing against the change.

Their comments are among tens of thousands the federal agency has received about the proposal.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked six manatee experts for opinions. All of the five that responded expressed concerns that, for instance, the proposal is not based on the best data.

Chuck Underwood is a spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Most of them have pointed out either some weaknesses or ways to strengthen our proposal, and some of them have come out and said we're not sure you're on the right track."

Some of the scientists pointed out the proposal is based on out-of-date data that does not include a recent unexplained die-off of manatees in the Indian River Lagoon.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says the manatee's population has rebounded enough that the animal no longer fits the definition of endangered. A decision is expected next year.

Amy Green covered the environment for WMFE until 2023. Her work included the 2020 podcast DRAINED.