By Ashley Lopez
A conservative group is suing the U .S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the status of Manatees. The group says the federal agency’s own scientific findings suggest the species should be listed as “threatened” and not “endangered.”
The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a conservative legal group, claims federal officials are dragging their feet and breaking their own rules in its classification of manatees.
Christina Martin, an attorney with PLF, is representing members of Save Crystal River in Citrus County who say the manatees’ endangered status has led to over-regulation of area waters.
Martin said U.S. Fish and Wildlife has yet to properly respond to the group’s petition filed late in 2012. The petition requested Fish and Wildlife down-list the manatee in light of recent population numbers.
“At this point all we want them to do is respond to the petition in a way that is required by law,” she said. “And if their science shows things have changed to such a degree that they are in danger of becoming extinct, that’s fine, but the point is that they have to follow their own science.”
Martin said numbers from last year’s aerial survey show the species is rebounding, even though more than 800 manatees died in Florida in 2013.
However, scientists have said those surveys tend to undercount manatees.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Spokesman Chuck Underwood said the agency is currently taking this all into account.
“You have to look at so many factors and the Endangered Species Act itself has five very specific factors you have to look at and most of those are threat related-- and that’s an ongoing process,” he said.
Underwood said down-listing the species won’t change much of the protections and regulations currently in place for sea cows.
Several years ago, federal officials said it might be time to take another look at whether manatees are in danger of becoming extinct, but record manatee deaths and federal budget cuts put a damper on those plans. Audiofile.