Manatees no longer endangered, feds say

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is proposing to loosen protections for the water-dwelling manatees.

The FWS announced Thursday it is looking to remove West Indian manatees from the agency’s list of endangered species, though it will not completely remove protections.

Manatees would instead be listed as a threatened species. The FWS says it will still look to protect the species from extinction but thinks the additional protections afforded to endangered animals are no longer necessary.

The FWS noted that manatees have taken significant steps toward recovery since they were listed as an endangered species. There are now an estimated 13,000 manatees around the world, including more than 6,300 in Florida. 

“The manatee is one of the most charismatic and instantly recognizable species,” said Michael Bean, principal deputy assistant secretary at the Interior Department, which oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service. “It’s hard to imagine the waters of Florida without them, but that was the reality we were facing before manatees were listed under the Endangered Species Act. 

"While there is still more work to be done to fully recover manatee populations, their numbers are climbing and the threats to the species’ survival are being reduced,” he added.

The public has 90 days to comment.