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Conservation groups sue U.S. Fish and Wildlife over record manatee die-off

Wildlife agencies offered lettuce to starving manatees in the Indian River Lagoon. Photo courtesy the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Conservation groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday in federal court over last year’s record manatee die-off in Florida. 

The groups want the federal agency to update and strengthen protections on manatee habitat. 

The groups say manatees face threats like loss of habitat and poor water quality, which has led to harmful algae blooms and widespread seagrass losses that have left the animals starving. 

More than 1,100 manatees died last year in Florida. 

The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Save the Manatee Club say the number represents 13% of the animal’s total population. 

The groups want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to update protections under the Endangered Species Act on manatee habitat, which they say have not been revised since 1976. 

The manatee was downlisted in 2017 from endangered to threatened. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had no comment on the litigation. The groups in December filed a notice of intent to sue against the Environmental Protection Agency over water pollution. 

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Amy Green

About Amy Green

Reporter and Producer

Amy Green covers the environment and climate change at WMFE News. She is an award-winning journalist and author whose extensive reporting on the Everglades is featured in the book MOVING WATER, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, and podcast DRAINED, available wherever you get your podcasts. Amy’s ... Read Full Bio »