Manatees could lose endangered species status

Updated:

Loading
FLORIDA —

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the manatee's outlook for the future has improved and could now be classified as a threatened species, meaning they would lost their classification as an endangered species.

Officials said the change would have no immediate impact on state laws protecting the animals, which have been on the endangered list for almost 50 years.

William Kowalik has run a kayaking business in Brevard County for 15 years and said the sea cows are a big draw for customers. He also said he's noticed changes over the years.

"They just started picking up in the last 20 years.  There's just a lot more manatees," he said.

FWS officials are now moving forward with a status review of the manatee to see if they should be reclassified, a move that follows a lawsuit from business owners in northern Florida.

Boaters in Brevard County and other parts of the state are used to seeing signs that force them to slow down in certain zone, and those signs are at the center of the lawsuit.

Businesses owners in Citrus County worry too many low wake zones could kill recreational boating and business in their area.

A spokesman for the FWS said there's little to no difference in the protection afforded under a threatened versus endangered status.

Kowalik just hopes whatever happens doesn't change the restrictions he believes are working.

"They could reclassify it but they should leave the no wake zones alone," he said.

The FWS is asking for input from the public on this issue. To weigh in, visit FWS.gov.