Florida Manatee
© Jan Reyneirs

Florida Manatee

Success Stories

Keeping Manatees Protected

Florida Manatee, © Brian Skerry / National Geographic Stock

© Brian Skerry / National Geographic Stock

Despite growing threats to the manatee’s long-term survival and overwhelming public opposition, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted in 2006 to downlist manatees on the state level from Endangered to Threatened status. However, years of efforts by Defenders and our conservation partners paid off when, at the December 2007 FWC meeting, the commissioners voted to defer the status change indefinitely and asked FWC staff to review the threatened species listing process and come up with new ideas for improving how the FWC conserves and manages Florida's threatened species.  The Commission adopted a new management system for conserving threatened species at the September 2010 meeting. Under the new management system, federally-listed species, such as the Florida manatee, maintain that federal status in the state rule.

Establishing Speed Zones

Defenders was a lead plaintiff in federal lawsuits against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission claiming inadequate protections for Florida manatees. The outcome was a landmark settlement in 2000 that resulted in many additional protection measures for manatees. As a result of the lawsuits, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service added 17 refuge and sanctuary areas. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission also added many other state speed zones and safe havens to their manatee protection regulations.