Alarming Manatee Deaths Prompt Calls for Endangered Status

The deaths of almost 2,000 manatees in Florida’s coastal and inland waterways over the last two years has provoked an alliance of environmental groups to demand an urgent reclassification of the species to officially endangered.

The advocates, led by the non-profit Center for Biological Diversity, insist the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) made a critical error in 2017 by prematurely downgrading the status of the giant aquatic mammals from endangered to merely threatened*.  

The alliance, which includes Harvard Law School’s animal law and policy clinic, the Save the Manatee Club and Miami Waterkeeper, has petitioned the interior secretary, Deb Haaland, and FWS director, Martha Williams, for the change. (source)


“With Florida’s manatees dying by the hundreds, it’s painfully clear that the 2017 federal decision to down-list the species was scientifically baseless.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service now has the opportunity to correct its mistake and protect these desperately imperiled animals.”

-Ragan Whitlock, a Florida-based attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity


Glyphosate in Round-Up Weedkiller One Killer of Manatees

“Environmentalists blame pollution from wastewater treatment plants, leaking septic systems, fertilizer runoff and other sources for poisoning waterways where manatees were once abundant, and killing off seagrass.

Particularly affected is Indian River Lagoon, where the alliance says more than half of sampled Florida manatees are chronically exposed to glyphosate, a potent herbicide applied to sugarcane and aquatic weeds.”  (source)

*A species is considered “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act if it is “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range”. A “threatened” species may become endangered in the foreseeable future.