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Water-Related News

Will Florida manatees be listed as an endangered species again? Feds to review data.

Environmental groups say the change would be welcomed, but long overdue.

In the wake of thousands of Florida manatee deaths in recent years, federal wildlife officials Wednesday announced they will launch a new scientific review to determine whether the animal should be reclassified as an endangered species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the coming months will round up manatee data and decide whether the West Indian manatee species should be given bolstered protections under the federal Endangered Species Act.

In 2017, federal wildlife officials downlisted West Indian manatees to a “threatened” species, a decision the agency claimed was based on improved population numbers. Many environmental advocacy groups have decried that decision as premature, especially after 1,100 animals died in 2021, many of them from a human-fueled seagrass famine.

This week’s announcement comes after a coalition of environmental groups in November petitioned the federal agency to go back to the drawing board and reconsider classifying the species as the manatee die-off unfolded in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, a 156-mile estuary on the Atlantic coast that has been plagued by nutrient pollution in recent decades.