West Indian manatees may no longer be endangered species

By Jennifer Pilgrim,

Manatees have been on the federal endangered species list since 1967, but that soon may change thanks to a lawsuit brought on from the Pacific Legal Foundation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced earlier this week they are reviewing the manatee's status as "endangered" to possibly change it to "threatened."

Also known as sea cows, manatees are fully aquatic marine mammals, with three known species in existence internationally. There are West African, Amazonian and West Indian manatees. The West Indian manatees are the most common, and oftentimes found around Florida and the southern western coast of the United States. These sea cows can grow to be almost 14 feet long and around 1,300 pounds, but are entirely herbivores. They oftentimes live to be 60 years old.

According to Tech Times, the U.S. FWS is opening a 60-day period in which they are accepting public comments regarding the manatee lifestyle as seen by everyday citizens. They are focusing on "whether or not climate change is a threat to the species, what regional climate change models are available, and whether they are reliable and credible to use as step-down models for assessing the effect of climate change on the species and its habitat."

Animals considered endangered or threatened are required to be reviewed from time to time, as per the Endangered Species Act, reports WFSU. The Pacific Legal Foundation is calling for a suit to force the FWS to review manatees due to the image that their numbers are recovering because of an increase in habitats around the Florida area.

Although there is debate on the status of manatees, Save Crystal River Vice President Steve Lamb says, "We’re all about manatee protection, we always have been. Our community had the first manatee plant in the state."

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