APOLLO BEACH (FOX 13) - Wildlife officials are poised to move manatees off the endangered species list and upgrade their status to threatened, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission announced Thursday.
"We believe the manatee is no longer in danger of extinction," said Michael Edgar with the FWC.
The designation acknowledges the success of conservation efforts in Florida over the past 25 years. They've included boat speed restrictions and manatee protection areas which helped ensure the animals wouldn't be bothered by humans.
"It says that we've done our job, protected them enough that their numbers have increased. The de-listing will be to threatened so there still will be a lot of controls and protection on them," said Jamie Woodlee, of Tampa Electric's Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach.
Officials say the upgraded status would not change any protection efforts.
Aerial surveys estimated the statewide manatee population at 1267 in 1991. That number today is approximately 6,300, a 500-percent increase.
The move to upgrade the protection status is in the proposal stage and is subject to a 90-day comment period before a final decision is made.