Manatees classification status could change from ‘endangered' to ‘threatened'

Record number of manatees reported in annual survey

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to “downlist” the West Indian manatee’s status from “endangered” to “threatened” meaning the species is on the road to recovery.

[Read Florida's endangered and threatened species list below]

In 2016, the agency sought public comment on a petition to reclassify the West Indian manatee because “they no longer meet the definition of endangered,” the petition said.

Endangered is defined as a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. 

The Florida manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian manatee. Manatees were placed on the endangered species list nearly 50 years ago, on March 11, 1967.

The number of manatees has steadily increased over the past three years with 6,620 as the highest number to date this year since the survey was first conducted in 1991.

Manatees are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which outlines the protection of both plants and animals as either endangered or threatened.

The status change to threatened would mean the West Indian manatees are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.