Manatees are considered the elephants of the sea (or coastal waters). They are massive in size, yet gentle in behaviour. They are known to slowly graze aquatic vegetation in the rivers all along the Florida coast. They don’t harm people, but we harm them. Perhaps not intentionally, but boat traffic within coastal river systems in Florida is heavy and the often submerged manatees are hit by boats when the come up to the surface for air.
There are strict boat speed limits in these coastal systems to ensure manatees are seen and avoided at all coast. Protection was necessary as the manatee population was decreasing at an unsustainable rate. The manatee was added as a Species at Risk under the Endangered List.
The designation comes with protection. As I previously mentioned, boat speed limits are controlled and water quality is closely monitored. The US Fisheries and Wildlife Department surveys the manatee population for all of Florida to monitor its recovery.
This year’s manatee survey discovered that there were 1000 more individuals then last survey (2010). The survey consisted of 20 observers from 11 organizations conducting aerial monitoring of manatees on the east and west coasts of Florida. The 2010 survey discovered a record increase, which was broken by the latest survey.
The increase has encouraged boaters to ask for the species “At Risk” designation to be down listed from endangered to threatened. The federal government is being conservative about the decision because there are so many factors that could dictate the population for the manatee in Florida including increased boat speed due to lack of protection; decrease in water quality; and, climate change impacts.
Regardless of their recent increase in population size, the manatees need constant protection as they face many real threats in the future.
What are your thoughts? Do you think manatees should continue to be protected?