Recommendations to Reclassify Manatees Under the ESA

In 2007 both Federal and State Agencies Recommended that Manatees Be Reclassified to Threatened Status Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).


The goal of all federal recovery plans is to remove the species from the list of federally endangered and threatened species. 


  • In addition to this stated goal, federal recovery plans identify management actions and criteria that must be met in order for the species to be reclassified and removed from the list.
  • It was never the intention of the ESA for a species to be permanently listed if the biological reviews indicated that the species had recovered.
  • The resources, both financial and in manpower, should be devoted to those species who truly are in danger of extinction, not a species that is thriving in its environment and does not meet the federally stipulated criteria.

In 2007, both the State of Florida and the US Fish and Wildlife Commission agreed that the biological data and numerous studies conducted warranted that the Manatee should be reclassified as a Threatened Species under the laws of the Endangered Species Act.   However, no action was taken at that time due to political and public pressure.


US Fish and Wildlife’s Official Positions on Reclassifying the Manatee


  • According to the USFWS 5-Year Review in 2007, as required by the ESA, the manatee was recommended to be downlisted from endangered to threatened species status.  The report stated:

Therefore, we believe the West Indian manatee no longer meets the definition of an endangered species. However, because of the threats of potential habitat loss (Factor A) and watercraft collisions (Factor E) and the concerns regarding the adequacy of regulatory mechanisms associated with those threats, we believe the West Indian manatee should be classified as threatened.”


Further Evidence for Reclassifying the Manatee to “Threatened” Species Status


  • In 2003, the USFWS determined that all of the warm water springs and hot water discharge canals in Florida could support a manatee population of about 5,000.
  • In 2007, the “minimum” manatee population was determined by synoptic survey to be approximately 2,800 animals. In 2010, the “minimum” population was determined by synoptic survey to be approximately 5,067 animals.
  • In 2007, both the USFWS and FWC recommend downlisting the manatee to Threatened. 


  • USFWS Regional Director, Cynthia Dohner, declined two petitions by environmental groups and on August 25, 2009, issued a letter confirming the health of the species in the Citrus County area. She stated: “In general, manatees in Florida’s Northwest Management Unit (which includes manatees that winter in the Crystal and Homosassa Rivers) are doing quite well.” Dohner also states that Florida’s sovereign policy in place in King’s Bay since 1991 already “minimizes manatee harassment by swimmers while providing opportunities for wildlife dependant recreation.”

  • In 2010 12 Month Finding, USFWS states they did not anticipate congressional appropriations in FY 2010 to be “available to work on additional critical habitat designations”. Yet, they proposed expanding their regulatory control in the Kings Bay Refuge anyway to over 560 acres despite the lack of funding or law enforcement personnel to implement the rule.
  • In 2010, the USFWS statements in the Federal Register indicate the range of the manatee population now extends from South Carolina to Texas on a regular basis. 
  • In 2012, USFWS was required by law to reevaluate the status of the manatee on the Endangered Species List.  However, no action has been taken as of February, 2014, in direct contrast with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.


It is Time For the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service To Act On Their Own Recommendations and Follow the Law According to the ESA.