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Annual Florida manatee count breaks record for third year in a row

23 February 2017

But this year's 15 observers were helped by warm, sunny weather and good visibility, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission said Monday.

The high numbers, say some, are proof that the manatee's status should be raised from "endangered" to "threatened".

ORLANDO | Florida wildlife officials are encouraged by the results of a recent survey that counted 6,620 manatees in the state.

The 2017 survey represents the third consecutive year with a minimum count higher than 6,000 manatees.

As conflicts have increased between panthers and humans, including a record 34 roadkill panthers previous year and increasing reports of panthers killing cattle, the number of panthers has become an increasingly contentious issue.

According to the survey, 3,488 manatees were counted in Florida's east coast, and 3,132 on the state's west coast.

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The survey is done every winter following a cold front, said Holly Edwards, FWC biologist and assistant research scientist, who stressed that aerial counts are not accurate population counts because they can often miss manatees.

Editor's Note: The West Indian Manatee is still classified as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Their gathering near power plants emphasizes the need to preserve manatees' natural homes in warm Florida springs, Tripp explained, with sometimes deadly cold snaps killing members of their group. "We're happy that the manatee is doing well, and we just want the government to follow the requirements".

The proposal of changing the status is not only meant to recognize the progress, but it is also intended to promise ourselves that we will keep the recovered population of manatees safe.

A public comment period ended in April 2016. Then, in 2012, the Pacific Legal Foundation petitioned the agency to downlist them. "For example, there's a low level of "take" (such as accidental death or injury) that is allowed for a threatened species in the course of management activities, whereas that take (and thus any risky activities) is prohibited for an endangered species".

"Should the Service decide reclassification is warranted, the species would remain protected under both the ESA and the Marine Mammal Protection Act", he adds. The agency's other argument for changing the listing: a computer model that shows they now stand little chance of going extinct.