manatees

The Miami Herald

This week on The Florida Roundup...

With less than three weeks left to go in Florida's 2017 Legislative Session, state Senate leaders have found themselves suddenly confronted with arguably the most uncomfortable situation they've had to face in some time.

Red Huber, MCT via Miami Herald

Things are looking up for Florida's manatees.

The West Indian manatee has long been considered "endangered"-- a species on life support. But at the end of March, federal officials changed the manatees' status to “threatened,” which means their condition is less critical. In early 2017, officials counted more than 6,000 manatees in Florida’s waters.

Sure, the news from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service arrived just a little late for Manatee Appreciation Day — but it's unlikely the gentle finned blimp will be too upset about the belated gift: The announcement that the agency is removing the West Indian manatee from the list of endangered species is welcome, no matter when it arrives.

One of the symbols of Florida is no longer an endangered species. That's according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which announced Thursday they're downlisting the manatee from endangered to threatened. Manatees have been classified as endangered since the first federal endangered species list was issued in 1967.

More manatees than ever - 6,300 - were counted during the winter, when they congregate around springs and warm power plant outfalls. But last year, more than one hundred manatees were killed, mostly by boaters.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Seagrass in Florida Bay has died off rapidly over the past couple of years. About 40,000 acres have been lost, harming the habitat of animals from manatees to toadfish and imperiling the area's fishing industry.

Wildlife officials say 520 manatees died in Florida last year, including a record 104 killed by boat strikes.

Creative Commons via Flickr / psyberartist (https://flic.kr/p/7xiU9C)

The manatee is a sort of Florida symbol - their squished noses and doughy bodies are just objectively one of the cutest things in our waters.

But this year boats have killed a record number of the sea cows, 98 in total. This beats the previous record set in 2009 when 97 were killed.

In total, 472 manatees have died in 2016, far fewer than the 830 in 2013, many from natural causes. The nature of 139 deaths is undetermined.

Rebekah Entralgo / WLRN

 

The Florida waters gained one more healthy manatee Wednesday afternoon, and his name is Pocket.

Pocket first arrived at the Miami Seaquarium in May  2015, and he was named after the multiple deep scars left by boat propellers. Animal care supervisor Jessica Schiffhauer says he’s made tremendous improvement.

"He was about 240 pounds, so he's put on 400 pounds almost since he's been here," Schiffhauer says. "We needed him to gain weight and get healthy."

Now, Pocket is 2-4 years old, eight feet long and weighs around 800 pounds.

Pointing to increased numbers of manatees and improved habitat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday it wants to change the status of the sea cows from endangered to threatened.

Manatees Might Lose Endangered Status

Jul 2, 2014
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region / Creative Commons/Flickr

Manatees have been an endangered species since 1967. But on Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made an announcement that this classification may soon be lowered to "threatened."

But some environmentalists and government officials are opposed to this change. They say changing the label might result in more lenient rules about boat speed zones and dock-building limits. 

Animal Legal Defense Fund

For years, animal-rights activists have been trying to win freedom for the captive orca known to Miami Seaquarium audiences as “Lolita.”  A recent announcement by federal officials could be the first step.

Florida's Most Famous Manatee Celebrates 65th Birthday

Jul 19, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

The oldest manatee ever to be held in captivity celebrated his 65th birthday on Sunday.

In what was one of the first recorded births in captivity, Snooty was born at the Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company on July 21, 1948. In 1949, he was transferred to the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, where he has been living comfortably ever since.

To celebrate the occasion, the museum held a free birthday party.

Over the years, Snooty has proven to be invaluable in teaching scientists about conservation and education of the state's marine life.

Tricia Woolfenden

One of Florida's most beloved endangered species is facing a tough end to the winter. State wildlife officials have confirmed the deaths of more than 170 manatees in Southwest Florida as red tide impacts regional populations of the gentle water-dwelling mammals.