Manatee could come off endangered list

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Federal officials and their state counterparts in Florida took separate actions yesterday that ultimately could knock the manatee off the endangered-species list, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported in a story today.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans for its most comprehensive study to date of the manatee, saying the "latest and best scientific and commercial information" will be considered to determine how the sea cow is faring since its first listing in 1967.

"If, after reviewing all the information, we determine nothing has changed, the manatee's status will remain federally listed as endangered," Dave Hankla, a field supervisor in the service's Jacksonville office, told the newspaper. "However, if the data substantiates that a reclassification or de-listing is warranted, we could recommend either."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to adopt updated criteria for defining species as endangered, threatened and of special concern. FWC officials said the new process would provide a "better measuring stick" to identify which species are in danger, monitor their progress and determine whether corrective actions are working.

"The manatee should have been down-listed a long time ago," said Tom McGill, a member of Citizens for Florida Waterways and chairman of the Marine Advisory Council for Brevard County. "The manatee population is exploding."

McGill said he plans to send information to the federal wildlife service supporting a change in the species' status, but he is skeptical that the manatee will be taken off the endangered list.

"A lot of jobs are tied to keeping the manatee listed as endangered," he said. "If the manatee is not endangered, then Save the Manatee Club is. The decision won't be scientific, but political."

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