Federal wildlife officials are proposing relisting Florida's iconic manatees as a "threatened" species, a less dire classification than "endangered."

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said Thursday that the manatee population has recovered enough that the species no longer meets the definition of "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act.

Florida's manatee population has grown from several hundred in 1967 to more than 6,300 counted last year in an annual statewide survey.

A listing as a "threatened" species would allow some flexibility for federal officials but maintain most of the protections afforded to animals listed as endangered. U.S. Fish and Widlife also says that current manatee protection measures will remain in place, including the manatee protection zones throughout Florida and enforcing boating speeds.

The manatees also enjoy protection under the Marin Mammal Protection Act.

The public would have 90 days to comment to comment on this proposal.

Officials are looking for information that could influence whether the Fish and Wildlife Service proceeds with delisting the manatees or leaves them on the endangered species list. You can find specific information, along with details on how to comment, on the Fish and Wildlife Service website.

The public is also invited to attend a hearing next month in Orlando on the manatees.

  • Saturday, Feb. 20 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Buena Vista Palace Convention Center
  • 1900 Buena Vista Drive, Orlando