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A Times Editorial

Editorial: Don't weaken manatee protections

There is no justification for the federal government to downgrade the protected status of the Florida manatee. It might make it easier for irresponsible boaters and builders to abuse their privileges on the public waterways. But the move would be terrible for the species and send the wrong message about Florida's natural resources. If anything, the state and federal governments should do more to protect these habitats.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week it had agreed to consider shifting the manatee from the "endangered" to the "threatened" list. While that change still would offer manatees some legal protection from the loss of habitat and other impacts, the move is a downgrade with cascading implications. This is hardly worth it merely to satisfy boaters and builders, who have championed this issue for years as a means to allow higher boating speeds and more development along the water.

Manatees face even greater threats today from pollution and other man-made impacts that first led them to be included on the original endangered list in 1967. A record number, 829, died last year, many of them from a mysterious ailment in the Indian River Lagoon that may be tied to pollution. Rather than put them further in harm's way, the state and federal governments should assess the health of the species and their natural habitats and explore new ways to improve the quality of Florida's surface waters. Manatees are one of many facets of Florida that make this place special. Downgrading their status would send the wrong message.

Editorial: Don't weaken manatee protections 07/07/14 [Last modified: Monday, July 7, 2014 6:07pm]
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