Buchanan calls for continued protections for Florida manatees

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) sent a letter on Thursday to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calling the agency’s decision to downgrade the manatee from endangered to threatened “misguided and premature” because of dangers the animal continues to face.

The manatee has been listed as an endangered species since 1966 and faces myriad threats, including watercraft collisions, habitat loss and red tide. Warm water springs used for survival by manatees during the winter months are also disappearing.

“These gentle giants need our help as hundreds continue to be killed off,” Buchanan said. “The Fish and Wildlife Service decision will only exacerbate this crisis by reducing their protections.”

Florida’s current population of 6,000 manatees could fall to within 500 over the next century, experts have warned.

“I urge the agency to withdraw its misguided and premature proposal immediately and help save this treasured species,” Buchanan said. “The government must not downplay the severity of these threats to the manatee’s survival.”

Buchanan also called on the agency in Oct. 2014 following reports that it was seeking to weaken protections of the manatee.

“Manatees have become an iconic symbol for the wilderness and beauty of Florida,” Buchanan said. “They are an engine in our economy even as they are a restorative presence in our tranquil waters. We must do everything possible to protect this treasured species.”

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