Buchanan Blasts Decision to Weaken Protections for Florida Manatee
WASHINGTON – Calling it a “huge disappointment,” Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., blasted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcement today that it has downgraded protections for the Florida manatee.
“The decision to weaken protections under the Endangered Species Act threatens the survival of the manatee, one of Florida’s most beloved animals,” Buchanan said. “It needs to be reversed.”
Buchanan said he planned to contact the Secretary of the Interior to ask him to reconsider and overturn the decision.
The Fish and Wildlife Service decision downgrades the manatee’s protections from “endangered” to “threatened.” Despite the agency’s assertion that a downlisting would not affect federal protections for the manatee, a move from endangered to threatened could cause a broader reassessment of state and local protections for the animals.
Manatee deaths are on the rise according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. There were 520 deaths in 2016, more than 100 of which were caused by boats and other watercraft.
Manatees face a variety of threats to their existence, including watercraft collisions, habitat loss and red tide. Additionally, the warm water springs manatees depend on during the winter months for survival are disappearing.
Buchanan noted that 16 percent of the Florida manatee population died in 2013 as a result of a massive bloom of red tide algae as well as a mysterious ailment that killed a number of manatees along the state’s east coast.
Buchanan has previously written a formal objection letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service to emphasize that any push to weaken protections for the manatee would be “misguided and premature.” In 2014, following a three-year period in which 1,600 manatees died of cold weather or red tide, Buchanan also called on FWS to maintain federal protections for manatees.