The West Indian manatee is far less in danger of extinction, thanks to conservation efforts.
The U.S. Department of the Interior announced on Thursday the downlisting of the manatee from “endangered” to “threatened,” following work by Caribbean countries, Florida, and states along the East Coast.
A Florida census found that the manatee now numbers more than 6,000 — compared to just a few hundred in the 1970s. The agency believes that there may be between 8,000 to 13,000 manatees left in the wild.
The manatee population benefited from measures over the years such as retrofitting water control devices, to reduce the likelihood of water gates accidentally closing on — and killing — manatees.
They’ve also cleaned up fishing gear, to lower the chances of the manatees getting tangled up in fishing lines and nets.
Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative public interest law firm, celebrated the downlisting. It had filed a petition in 2012 to request the manatee’s reclassification.
It said in a statement that the downlisting could have come “much sooner,” and that it was “nonsensical” for the decision to have came so late.
“The good news is that the bad news about the manatee was wrong,” said PLF attorney Christina Martin. “Its numbers are up, and down-listing makes scientific and legal sense.”
More needs to be done to conserve
Still, conservation efforts need to be upheld.
104 manatees died last year in Florida due to watercraft accidents, according to Reuters.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said that the manatee still faces threats like habitat loss, boating collisions, and loss of their winter warm-water habitat.
There has been pushback on the downlisting by other conservation groups, too. U.S.-based Save the Manatee Club said in a statement that more needs to be done.
“A federal reclassification at this time will seriously undermine the chances of securing the manatee’s long-term survival,” Patrick Rose, executive director of the non-profit said.
Citing the Trump administration’s promises to slash regulations, Rose added: “The move to downlist manatees can only be seen as a political one.”