Strict Environmental Regulations Will Save The Manatees

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A Pelican Sitting on a Manatee Zone Sign

Image: Shutterstock/Lynn Hristov

Strict Environmental Regulations Will Save The Manatees

When animals and plantlife are in danger of extinction, strict environmental laws and enforcement help preserve our environment and the lives of endangered and threatened species. As a result of these efforts in Florida, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently proposed that manatees be reclassified as “threatened,” a step down from “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

What are manatees?

Manatees, also known as sea cows, are underwater mammals loosely related to elephants. They live in shallow Florida waters, and spend most of their time swimming, eating and sleeping. As herbivores that feed on underwater plants, manatees are instrumental in maintaining biodiversity in Florida’s ecosystem. Manatees are among the original species declared endangered when the Endangered Species Preservation Act was first passed in 1967. However, since the 18th century, hunting or otherwise harming manatees has been illegal.

Environmental Dangers For Manatees

Humans are the only living threat to manatees and the primary cause of manatee deaths. Injuries sustained from boating collisions are the leading cause of manatee deaths. Manatees are often hit by recreational boats while swimming on the surface of the water due to their inability to swim fast. Certain types of fishing line and nets entangle and maim manatees. Pollution from power plants that leak into manatee habitats is a known cause of decreased immune function in the species.

man filming a manatee in Homosassa spring, Florida

Image: Shutterstock/Shane Gross

How Environmental Regulations Have Helped Save The Manatees

A variety of government, corporate and individual efforts have helped to protect, sustain and grow the manatee population. According to Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act passed of 1978, actions to save the manatees include increased regulation for boaters, acquisition of refuges, oil spill planning and preparation and public education campaigns. In Florida, November is manatee awareness month. In the past, Sea World has operated both as a manatee rescue program and exhibit. Celebrities like Jimmy Buffet and Alec Baldwin have lent their support to the manatee cause.

How do animals increase biodiversity?

It’s important to remember that protecting animals directly influences biodiversity. Just by living, eating and breathing, animals assist in the maintenance and growth of numerous plants, trees and flowers. Increased biodiversity helps the ecosystem adapt to climate change and makes it easier for the environment to recover from natural disasters.

How can we protect the environment and threatened species?

Though manatees are no longer endangered, the battle isn’t over. Regardless of whether you use boats or go fishing, there are a variety of things you can do to save the manatees and protect animals living in water bodies near you. Avoid dumping chemical waste and contaminated water down storm drains. Such water is not filtered and flows directly to animals contributing to the local ecosystem. Instead, dump contaminated water onto the grass. Try to reduce chemical pollution overall by using eco-friendly cleaning products.

Even if you do not see the immediate effects or benefits of environmental laws, the consequences of ignoring the wellbeing of life and environment are felt all too quickly. Abiding by environmental regulations is something that we can all do to protect the environment.

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