[This was originally posted in 2017. Manatees are no longer “endangered,” but remain listed as “threatened.” Management of the critter remains mired in 1990s theories — which were wrong then, and even more wrong now. We’re working on new data analysis tools to help foment new thinking about waterways management.]
Bob Atkins of Citizens For Florida’s Waterways and I had queried the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), about this year’s manatee count just this past weekend. The results were released today.
It’s the first time we’ve ever gotten turnaround THIS fast!
Another record “minimum population” count — 6,620*. Yet, manatees remain on the endangered list, with the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), violating yet another court order to update its official classification. WHY?
We are now firmly in the world of the surreal. The FWC press release doesn’t say “record number counted”. They are simply “encouraged” by the count.
Manatees have more than doubled in 15 years and
have more than tripled in 30 years.
By comparison, Florida black bears number 4350, and are no longer on the FWC imperiled list AT ALL. http://www.tampabay.com/…/florida-black-bear-popula…/2270659
In support of removing bears from its list, FWC noted the bear population has grown 60% in the past 14 years. They allowed bear hunting in order to reduce the rate of growth! Curious minds will note than 60% over 14 years is less than 100% over 10 years. A lot less, in fact, although still quite robust.
Also by comparison, there are 1800 giant pandas. They are now OFF the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) endangered list, and are considered “vulnerable”, akin to our “species of special concern’ in Florida.
WWF says the panda population has increased 17% in the past decade. Curious minds note again…. 17% over a decade is barely one-tenth the rate of growth of our Florida manatees.
It took 14 years for wildlife managers at FWS and FWC
to act on their recommendations to reclassify manatees
as “threatened” from endangered.
We have been waiting since 2003, when FWC first recommended reclassification, and since 2007, whenFWS did the same — for….. nothing. Seriously, what is WRONG with these people? WWII began, was fought, and won by us in LESS TIME than it’s taken FWS to fulfill its own recommendation.
Years ago, before the Manatee Forum started, Ken Haddad of FWC and Sam Hamilton at FWS, came up to me — and, I suspect, others — and asked, “If we update all the studies you think are not accurate, what will you do if the science says that boats are an extinction threat?”
I responded, “We will find a solution. We will follow where sound science leads.” We have kept that pledge.
Dammit, I should have demanded they agree to do the same!!
Sam, a good guy who ran the Southeast Regional FWS office, died at a young age a few years back. Ken, also a good guy who headed FWC, retired a couple years ago — in part because he was disgusted with the political interference over this very manatee issue.
This is just plain ridiculous. This is an all-too-perfect example of why we are fed up with government.
* Applying recently developed peer-reviewed abundance calculations to this “minimum count” is a bit of a stretch, but just a little bit. I estimate there are at least 8,000 manatees in Florida and likely close to 10,000. But, whether it’s 6620, 8000, or 10,000, there has never been this many in the state. Never. In some places, it’s accepted there are likely too many, drawn to places they shouldn’t be, such as warm water discharges at power plants, by good-intentioned but wrong-headed regulations. No one in the regulatory world ever imagined there could be this many manatees in Florida.