Enviros push feds to strengthen manatee protections in suit threat

By Bruce Ritchie | 03/22/2024 01:35 PM EDT

Federal wildlife officials said in 2017 they reclassified the manatee because it no longer was on the brink of extinction.

A manatee enjoys the warm sun and water in Apollo Beach, Florida.

Environmentalists warn manatees are threatened by boat strikes and habitat loss. Chris O'Meara/AP

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Environmentalists on Thursday told federal wildlife officials they intend to sue them over failing to act on their request to strengthen protections for manatees in Florida and Puerto Rico.

Harvard’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic in a letter told the Fish and Wildlife Service that the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups intend to sue over the agency’s failure to respond to a November 2022 petition to reclassify manatees as endangered under federal law.

The Center for Biological Diversity has criticized the agency’s decision in 2017 to reclassify the manatee from endangered to threatened. The groups now say manatees face threats, including the loss of sea grass they feed on due to pollution, and the loss of power plant outfalls that the mammals use as warm water refuges.


“The Fish and Wildlife Service has a vital opportunity to safeguard West Indian manatees, but it must act quickly,” Ragan Whitlock, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney in Florida, said in a statement issued Thursday.