Crist Asks That Manatee Protection Be Strengthened
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist has asked that manatees be re-listed as “endangered.”
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, has called on the U.S. Department of Interior to reverse its 2017 decision downgrading protections for the Florida manatee from an “endangered” to “threatened” species.
Following that decision, Crist joined with fellow members of the Florida Congressional Delegation to urge the restoring of endangered protections for manatees. In the last year, the number of manatee deaths has risen dramatically to record levels, highlighting the urgent need for their status to be reviewed and reversed.
Crist made his request Wednesday (March 28), also known as “Manatee Protection Day,” in a letter to Ryan Zinke, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior:
“Dear Secretary Zinke,
“It has been nearly a year since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) downgraded protections for the Florida manatee from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened.’ Since then, the state of Florida has witnessed a record number of manatee deaths. With this in mind – and on Manatee Appreciation Day – I am writing to again request that FWS reconsider its decision to downgrade protections for this beloved animal.
“The manatee has become synonymous with Florida’s waters. It was designated the state’s marine mammal in 1975 and contributes to Florida’s $5 billion wildlife viewing industry. The manatee is iconic in my home state, but they face a number of threats to their existence, including watercraft collisions and loss of habitat. Without the proper protections, I fear this gentle giant will not be around for future generations to enjoy and admire.
“According to data compiled by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the number of manatee deaths between January 1st and March 16th of this year number 201, compared to 138 within the same timeframe in 2017 and 171 when averaged over a five-year period.
“While Florida experienced severe and prolonged cold weather this year, the data shows that cold stress is not the sole reason for this rise in deaths. In 2017, for example, human-caused deaths (i.e., watercraft, flood gate/lock, and other human) resulted in a total of 18 manatee deaths. In 2018, that number nearly doubled to 34. When you include the Unrecovered and Undetermined categories, those numbers rise to 57 deaths in 2017 and 100 deaths in 2018. It is clear to me that these numbers are moving in the wrong direction and therefore warrant urgent review by FWS.
“For this reason, I respectfully request that FWS reconsider and reverse its decision to downgrade protections for the Florida manatee. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Crist represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which includes mid- and south Pinellas County.
For information about Crist, go to crist.house.gov.
Charlie Crist | Environment | Manatees | Manatee Protection | Politics | Tampabay News
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