Environmental groups ask for manatees to be added back to endangered list, threaten lawsuit

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Four environmental groups are asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move the manatee from threatened to endangered status after what they’re calling a lack of action.

Ragan Whitlock, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said now that 90 days have passed since their petition was made, they’ve filed a notice of intent to sue for failing to make the required finding on that petition.


“We’ve lost more than 20% of all manatees in Florida over the last few years. and the Fish and Wildlife Service has the opportunity to correct its 2017 mistake when it downlisted the manatee prematurely,” Whitlock said.

A record 1,100 manatees died in Florida in 2021, and another 800 died in 2022, many of them from starvation in the Indian River Lagoon due to a lack of seagrass. And even with fewer deaths, the manatee population is still in the midst of an unusual mortality event.

Read: Brevard Zoo to build county’s first manatee rehabilitation center

“Reclassifying the manatee as endangered could potentially bring more full-time employees at the agencies dedicated to manatee recovery efforts,” Whitlock said. “It could potentially bring more funding to manatee projects including improved water quality and further access to warm water habitats.”

Channel 9 has reached out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a response to the request. We are still waiting to hear back.

Read: 9 tips to keep manatees safe this spring

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson,

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.

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