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Manatee numbers up, but injuries persist


June 22, 2001
Web posted at: 4:42 PM EDT (2042 GMT)


MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Veterinarian Maya Dougherty, with the Miami Seaquarium, has tended to well over one hundred injured manatees during the past 10 years. Dougherty was recently kept busy by a manatee with fishing line deeply embedded in its flipper.

The loss of habitat, low reproduction rate and high death rate due to encounters with humans -- entanglement, poaching, boat accidents -- have threatened the manatee for years. These slow, docile, endangered creatures are often harmed because they float near the surface of the water and cannot move away quickly enough to avoid getting hurt.

The aquarium's steady business has not dried-up, which Dougherty says is an indication the manatee population is still very much endangered. However, not everyone agrees.

  • From Riverdeep: Manatees or Humanity

  • Map of Manatee Distribution
  • Manatee Fact Sheet
  • Synopsis of Manatee Lawsuit Settlement
  • Video from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Watch a manatee swim  
      POP QUIZ

    Which of the mammals below is the closest relative to the manatee?



    A recent aerial survey put the manatee population at nearly 3,300, 600 more than the highest previous survey. Some boating and fishing organizations say that's proof the manatee is making a comeback and further protections aren't necessary.

    "We need to be sensitive that there are places where manatees congregate," Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said recently. "But, you can do that with speed zones and proper signage."

    Nonetheless, with speed zones and clearly marked signs in place, Florida's Brevard County, near the Kennedy Space Center, has the highest mortality rates for the manatee.

    "This is probably one of the best marked speed zones in the state," said Florida Marine Patrol officer Dennis Harrah.

    Harrah said even with the signs, some people do not pay attention.

    Controversy about the level of protection given to these endangered marine mammals continues.

    A sign warns passing boaters  

    The Save the Manatee Club, along with nearly 20 environmental and animal protection groups, filed lawsuits last year which were settled in January against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    As a result of the lawsuit settlement with environmental and animal protection groups, the federal government is preparing to designate 16 manatee refugees and sanctuaries. And as part of another lawsuit, the state is beginning what will likely be contentious public hearings to determine new safe havens and speed zones.



    taking game or fish by illegal methods



    threatened (with harm, extinction, etc.); brought into peril or harm's way



    get together in a group

    Florida cracks down on speed boaters in manatee country
    June 5, 2000
    Florida manatee numbers up, survey finds
    March 17, 1999
    Manatees get sanctuary in Florida
    October 26, 1998

    Miami Seaquarium
    Save the Manatee

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