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I like manatees as well as the next guy (really). But that doesn’t mean I want to hug one. Or join the chorus of unknowing folks who strive to halt or put a big crimp in fishing and boating in the name of saving the big critters from supposed extinction just around the corner.
Fact is, the manatees are about as close to extinction as the rest of us.
Now, at last, after 15 years of turmoil and falsehoods perpetrated by the Save the Manatee Club, the federal government is recognizing the simple truth–the animal’s population is not only stable, it is growing fast, and has been for many years.
To its credit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to re-classfify the manatee from “endangered” to “threatened.” Anglers, boaters and others should support the change strongly.
The change may sound like mere wordplay. Not so. The designation under the Endangered Species Act has a powerful influence on what steps are taken, or not taken, involving interactions between people and sea cows. Neither designation, by the way, removes prohibitions against intentional takings.
We recommend that you read the Fish & Wildlife Service’s findings and proposal on its Web site. The official estimate of the Florida manatee population is now figured to be at least 6,350. That’s a whopping increase from the 500 or so that was claimed in the ’70s.
And check in with Standing Watch, the boating group that played a key role in protesting many of the extreme restrictions that stifled traditional boating use and dock building.
Standing Watch President Jim Kalvin is organizing the troops to speak at an FWS hearing Feb. 20 in Orlando, with details to be announced at the various sites, including Florida Sportsman.
It should be noted that progress in overcoming much of the manatee extremism has been due to tons of research and advocacy by Ted Forsgren of Coastal Conservation Association
Florida, as well as experts such as Dr. Tom Fraser, former longtime chair of what is now the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
And not to be forgotten, are the dedicated anglers and boaters who gave so much time and resources to the cause.
They’re needed again.