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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Good News for Manatees

manatee feeding
Mike Oetker, Deputy Regional Director of the Service’s Southeast Region, feeds a manatee as Jessica Schiffhauer, an assistant animal care supervisor at Miami Seaquarium, looks on. Photo by Ken Warren/USFWS

On a warm and sunny day in South Florida, palm trees swayed as a cool breeze blew in from across Biscayne Bay prompting Mike Oetker to say while looking at sea cows glide along peacefully at Miami Seaquarium: “This setting is right off my bucket list.” 

Mike, Deputy Regional Director of our Southeast Region, was at the Seaquarium on January 7 for a news conference to announce that the Service proposes downlisting West Indian manatees from “endangered” to “threatened.”  The event was held right at the edge of the pool where rescued manatees are rehabilitated and/or kept if they can’t be returned to the wild. 

As the manatees swam by, Mike delivered the good news saying, “The Fish and Wildlife Service recently completed our review of the manatee’s status and based on the best available scientific information we believe the manatee is no longer in danger of extinction.” 

He added, “This action we’re announcing today, really in our view, demonstrates the successes of how the Endangered Species Act can and does work…and is making waterways safer and cleaner in Florida.” 

manatee interview
A Miami-based television news crew interviews Larry Williams, Florida State Ecological Services Supervisor, about the Service's proposal to downlist West Indian manatees from "endangered" to "threatened." Photo by Ken Warren/USFWS

Participating with Mike in the news conference were: Larry Williams, our Florida State Supervisor for Ecological Services; Jay Herrington, Field Supervisor of the North Florida Ecological Services Office; Jim Valade, the Service’s Florida Manatee Recovery Coordinator; and Ernie Marks, Director, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, South Region. 

"It's really a success story.  It's like taking manatees out of intensive care and putting them in a regular care facility," Jim said. "They still need our attention without a doubt, but they are no longer in intensive care per se." 

The Service is providing a 90-day comment period on this proposal. Following the comment period, the Service will review the comments, any additional data or information received, and then make its final status determination. 

After the news conference, Miami Seaquarium employees gave Mike the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with manatees, including the chance to feed them.  It was indeed, a day of “bucket list” experiences for him and West Indian manatees.

-- Ken Warren, South Florida Ecological Services Office



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