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Experts: Manatees could return to endangered status

Posted: 8:50 AM, Nov 26, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-26 11:25:31-05

NAPLES, Fla -- When it comes to protecting paradise, one of Florida's most beloved marine mammals needs our help. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is working to make sure manatees don't disappear in the next few decades.

The concern is that in the coming decades, manatees won't have enough warm water spots to retreat to and survive during Florida's winters.

This has to do with power plants. Many along the state's waterways are shutting down, due to regulations and technology.

The power plants create warm-water habitats for manatees. In fact, about two-thirds of Florida's manatees use them. However, none of these power plants are expected to be around in the next 40 years.

Over the last few years, FWC has been taking measures to make sure the mammal doesn't fall back on the endangered species list. It's not an easy task, but they're working to encourage manatees to move to Florida's natural warm-water springs.

“We’re going to have to change behaviors. That will take some time, but manatees have proven they’re very adaptable,” said Ron Mezich with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission manatee program.

FWC said it's also working to improve protection and access to these springs. Many have been blocked by dams or other construction over the years.

Florida has more than 30 major springs, and experts estimate only about 18% of manatees currently live in one.