Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Manatees Poised for Premature Downlisting

"It seems contradictory that in the same month the state reports a near-record number of manatee deaths, it also would move to downgrade protections for the sea cows...The public should not be fooled into thinking all is well for these jeopardized animals..."
-- Tampa Tribune Editorial, January 2006

For over four years now, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) has been striving to downlist manatees from endangered to threatened status in the state of Florida. Although the proposal to downlist manatees has been on hold, now it is back on the fast track, and it seems inevitable that manatees will be downlisted by a vote of the FWCC Commissioners in June.

Inevitable, that is, unless we can mount a strong public awareness and grass roots campaign to stop this dangerous action. And we need your help to do it.

The FWCC is justifying their decision to downlist manatees by adopting a flawed imperiled species classification system that downlists manatees prematurely (see more information on this below).

There can be no doubt that threats are mounting for manatees: more people, more boats, more pollution, and the very real potential for warm waters from power plant effluents to be lost forever as aging plants are taken off line. Manatees need all the protection they can get.

What You Can Do:

1. Attend The Meeting: If you live in Florida, please attend the FWCC Commissioner's meeting on June 7 in West Palm Beach. Click here for more information and the address of the meeting location.

If you plan to attend, please call Janice Nearing at 1-800-432-5646 or e-mail her at jnearing@savethemanatee.org.

2. Send A Message On Downlisting: Submit your photo and "Please Don't Downlist Manatees" message to be featured in a PowerPoint presentation we are sending to the Commissioners and Governor Jeb Bush. Learn more >>

3. Send A Quick Letter: Please click on the link below to send a quick and easy online letter to the Commissioners and to Florida Governor Jeb Bush, telling them that you oppose downlisting manatees in Florida.


Thanks so much for your help on this critical issue for manatees. Your action now can make a huge difference!

How the FWCC Justifies Downlisting Manatees:

-In 2005, the FWCC modified its imperiled species classification system to incorporate the listing criteria of the IUCN-World Conservation Union (IUCN), a world authority on endangered species.

-However, there was one critical difference: The FWCC did not properly align the IUCN's categories with the category names. The IUCN's "Critically Endangered" category became the FWCC's "Endangered" category. The IUCN's "Endangered" category became the FWCC's "Threatened" category.

-If the FWCC had aligned the IUCN names and categories, the manatee population would clearly continue to meet the criteria for endangered status under the most recent scientific review.

What Will Happen To Manatees If They Are Downlisted

-State funding for management actions, enforcement, and research would likely be cut back and/or redirected.

-The boating public will erroneously think that manatees are in recovery and speed zones could be lifted in deadly areas across Florida. Already this year, a resolution to roll back speed restrictions in Brevard County was passed by the county commission and presented to the FWCC.

-When new marinas and docks are built, manatees won't receive the same degree of protection as they can under current policies.

-State downlisting could pave the way for manatees to be downlisted at the federal level under the Endangered Species Act.

-For all these reasons, lasting solutions to the manatee's long-term survival may never be implemented and the actual recovery of manatees from Endangered status might never be possible.

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