[QUOTE=Dean Ferry;2161371]Manatee foes debate downlisting
This Manatee news is something you do not see everyday.
Manatee foes debate downlisting
MELBOURNE – Each side of the manatee debate told state wildlife officials today they want more sound science.
But their positions kept to the usual grounds -- high or low, depending on which side one believes.
Boaters support calling manatees threatened, instead of endangered. Environmental groups say that could ultimately spell the species' demise.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is considering a change in the species' status from endangered to threatened in September.
They needed to approve a new management plan for the species before taking that step.
Many of the 200 people at today's commission's meeting turned out at Radisson Suite Hotel Oceanfront in Melbourne for one of their last chances to critique that plan for how to manage manatees under a new classification as threatened.
About 35 people signed up to speak on the issue.
"The opposition to downlisting while very loud , is also very small," said John Kendrick, a member of the board of dirctors with Citizens for Florida's Waterways, a boating advocacy group based in Brevard.
He said slow zones don't reduce manatee deaths and increase carbon dioxide exposure to boaters.
"They are not effective," Kendrick said.
Environmentalists called for keeping the endangered designation.
"I don't think you should downlist the manatee," said Suzanne Valencia, of West Melbourne.
She cited red tides as a major threat, because the potentially deadly algae toxin can absorb into seagrass, manatee staple food.
The sport fishing group that first petitioned the commission to review the manatee's biological status supports downlisting.
"You have an excellent plan in front of you," said Ted Fosgren, director of the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida, a sportfishing group.
He said more than 300,000 acres of state water lie within slow-speed manatee zones, and commercial fishermen shouldn't be exempt from having to go slow in them.
"Everybody needs to go by the same rules," Forsgren said.
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