From Computer Duo
On April 5, 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially downlisted the West Indian Manatee from endangered to threatened. An important event in manatee history, no doubt But is it the most important? Computer Duo decided to find out, and discovered a long and storied history….
Christopher Columbus is sailing off the coast of the Dominican Republic and sees three mermaids. But he’s disappointed that they are “not as beautiful as had been painted.” Not a big surprise, when you realize that they were actually manatees.
HELLO STELLER SEA COW
Georg Wilhelm Steller discovers our modern day manatee’s long lost cousin off the coast of Russia: the 30-foot long Sea Cow. It has no teeth and lives in cold water and eats only kelp.
GOODBYE STELLER SEA COW
It takes just 27 years for fur hunters in the North Pacific to hunt the Steller Sea Cow to extinction.
START SAVING THE MANATEES
Florida enacts the first state laws to protect manatees. In 1907, they are revised to include actual penalties: anyone caught molesting a manatee is subject to a $500 fine or six months in jail.
THE OLDEST MANATEE
Snooty is born at the old Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company, the first ever manatee born in captivity. The 68-year-old manatee is still alive today!
MARINE MAMMAL PROTECTION ACT
The Act makes it illegal to “take” marine mammals without a permit. This means that, as of 1972, you may no longer harass, feed, hunt, capture, collect, or kill any marine mammal or part of a marine mammal.
THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
President Richard Nixon deems species conservation efforts inadequate. The 93rd United States Congress responds with the Endangered Species Act, which protects species and also “the ecosystems upon which they depend.” Manatees are among the first species listed.
FLORIDA MANATEE SANCTUARY ACT
Suddenly, in 1978, it becomes “unlawful for any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb any manatee.” Maybe redundant in light of the Marine Mammal Protection act but who cares?
NOVEMBER IS MANATEE MONTH
Then-Florida Governor Bob Graham designates November Manatee Awareness Month. The governor of Florida still continues to renew the proclamation every year.
TIME TO WORK TOGETHER
Then-Florida Governor Bob Martinez directs the state’s wildlife agency to work with thirteen counties in Florida to reduce manatee injuries and deaths. Their first task: site-specific boat speed zones.
THE LICENSE PLATE
“Save the Manatee” novelty license plate is released. The $25 annual fee goes to the Save the Manatee Trust Fund. They’ve raised a lot of money....
WHOA POPULATION SURVEY
A state statute requires annual, impartial, scientific benchmarks of the manatee population, so the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission starts conducting aerial synoptic manatee population surveys: flying over known habitats to count all visible manatees.
BONFIRE OF THE MANATEES
Homer tries to help save the manatees in the first episode of the Simpsons’ 17th season. He fails, but Marge is impressed enough that she takes home “the real endangered species” at the end of the episode: “A devoted husband.”
A record 104 manatees die from boat strikes, seven more than the previous record set in 2009 and 25 more than the annual average.
ENDANGERED? NO... THREATENED
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues its final rule to downgrade the status of the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened… despite the fact that available scientifi c data and legal standards indicate that downlisting at this time is inappropriate.
DON’T CHASE THE MANATEES
There were only a few hundred of them in 1973 when they were listed as endangered. Through careful management of the manatee and its habitat, that number has increased to 6,620. That is a remarkable rebound and deserves to be celebrated. But does that really mean they should no longer be endangered? While the population keeps trending positive, the threats that endangered the manatee in the first place continue to exist today at higher numbers than ever. There are no plans to reduce boat-strike deaths. There are no plans to deal with the anticipated warm-water habitat loss that 60 percent of Florida manatees depend on every winter. And now, manatees are facing another threat: people keep chasing them! Hundreds of thousands of people take “Swim with” tours in Florida Manatee sanctuaries every year. And while it’s illegal to touch or interfere with the manatees in anyway, these regulations are rarely enforced. The more people interfere with them, the fewer manatees will show in these sanctuaries. So what’s the first, easiest thing you can do to help save the manatees?
DON’T CHASE THE MANATEES
Daily News Staff and Wire Reports. “Florida: 520 Manatee Deaths in 2016,with 104 Due to Boats.” Naples Daily News. 26 Jan. 2017. Web.
“Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act.” 68C-22 : THE FLORIDA MANATEE SANCTUARY ACT. Florida Administrative Rules, Law, Code, Register - FAC, FAR, ERulemaking. Web.
“Legislation for Manatee Protection.” Manatee Awareness & Protection Resource. Florida Sea Grant at the University of Florida, 2007. Web.
“Manatee Facts.” Save the Manatee Club. Web.
“Manatee Synoptic Surveys.” Population Monitoring Aerial Surveys. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Web.
“Marine Mammal Protection Act.” The Marine Mammal Center. 2017. Web.
Morris, Ashira. “8 Things You Didn’t Know about Manatees.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, 26 Nov. 2014. Web.
“Snooty Facts.” South Florida Museum. South Florida Museum, 2012. Web.
“Richard Nixon: Special Message to the Congress Outlining the 1972 Environmental Program.” The American Presidency Project. UC Santa Barbara, Web.
“Specialty License Plate: Save the Manatee.” Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Web.
The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau: The Forgotten Mermaids.Perf. Jacques Cousteau, Rod Serling. Les Réquins Associés, 1973.