[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 5 (Friday, January 8, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 1000-1026]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-32645]

[[Page 999]]

Vol. 81


No. 5

January 8, 2016

Part II

Department of the Interior


Fish and Wildlife Service


50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding on a 
Petition To Downlist the West Indian Manatee, and Proposed Rule To 
Reclassify the West Indian Manatee as Threatened; Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 81 , No. 5 / Friday, January 8, 2016 / 
Proposed Rules

[[Page 1000]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2015-0178; FXES11130900000C2-156-FF009E32000]
RIN 1018-AY84

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
on a Petition To Downlist the West Indian Manatee, and Proposed Rule To 
Reclassify the West Indian Manatee as Threatened

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule and notice of 12-month petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to 
reclassify the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened under 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) due to substantial 
improvements in the species' overall status since the original listing 
in 1967 as endangered under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 
1966. This proposed action is based on a thorough review of the best 
scientific and commercial data available, which indicate that the West 
Indian manatee no longer meets the definition of endangered under the 
Act. If this proposal is finalized, the West Indian manatee including 
its subspecies would remain protected as a threatened species under the 
Act. This document also constitutes our 12-month finding on the 
petition received to reclassify this species.

DATES: Comment submission: To allow us adequate time to consider your 
comments on this proposed rule, we must receive your comments on or 
before April 8, 2015.
    Public Hearing: An informational open house and public hearing are 
scheduled for Saturday, February 20, 2016 (see the ADDRESSES section 
and the Public Hearing section of SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for more 

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this proposed rule by one of the 
following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R4-
     U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, 
Attn: Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2015-0178; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
Headquarters, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-
    We request that you send comments only by the methods described in 
this section. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. 
This generally means that we will post any personal information you 
provide us (see the Public Comments section of SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION for more information).

Public Hearing

    We will hold a public hearing in Orlando, Florida on Saturday, 
February 20, 2016, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Buena Vista 
Palace Conference Center, 1900 Buena Vista Drive, Orlando, Florida 
32830 in the Center's Great Hall; (see the Public Hearing section of 
    Comments will be accepted orally or in writing at the public 
hearings. See the Public Hearing section of SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. 
Comments will be accepted orally or in writing at the public hearings.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jay Herrington, Field Supervisor, 
North Florida Ecological Services Office, by telephone at 904-731-3191, 
or by facsimile at 904-731-3045; or at the following address: 7915 
Baymeadows Way, Suite 200, Jacksonville, FL 32256; Edwin Mu[ntilde]iz, 
Field Supervisor, Caribbean Ecological Services Office, by telephone at 
787-851-7297, or by facsimile at 787-851-7441; or at the following 
address: Road 301, Km. 5.1, P.O. Box 491, Boquer[oacute]n, PR 00622. If 
you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the 
Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339, 24 hours a 
day, 7 days a week.


Executive Summary

Why We Need To Publish This Proposed Rule

     In April 2007, we completed a 5-year status review, which 
included a recommendation to reclassify the West Indian manatee from 
endangered to threatened.
     In December 2012, we received a petition submitted by the 
Pacific Legal Foundation, on behalf of Save Crystal River, Inc., 
requesting that the West Indian manatee and subspecies thereof be 
reclassified from its current status as endangered to threatened, based 
primarily on the analysis and recommendation contained in our April 
2007 5-year review.
     On July 2, 2014, we published a 90-day finding that the 
petition presented substantial information indicating that 
reclassifying the West Indian manatee may be warranted (79 FR 37706).
     This proposed rule, in accordance with section 4(b)(3)(B) 
of the Endangered Species Act (Act), also constitutes our 12-month 
finding that the petitioned action is warranted.
Summary of the Major Provisions of This Proposed Rule
     We propose to reclassify the West Indian manatee from 
endangered to threatened.
     This proposed rule also constitutes our 12-month petition 
The Basis for Our Action
     Castelblanco-Mart[iacute]nez et al.'s (2012, pp. 129-143) 
population viability analysis (PVA) model for the West Indian manatee 
describes a metapopulation with positive growth, and Runge et al.'s 
Core Biological Model (2015, p. 13) predicts that it is unlikely (<2.5 
percent chance) that the southeastern U.S. population will fall below 
4,000 total individuals over the next 100 years, assuming current 
threats remain constant indefinitely.
     Current population estimates are 6,350 manatees in the 
southeastern continental United States and 532 manatees in Puerto Rico. 
These numbers reflect a very low percentage chance of this animal going 
extinct in the next 100 years.
     Outside the United States, habitat fragmentation and loss 
is the main threat. Within the United States, watercraft collisions and 
the loss of winter warm-water habitat are the main threats. Our review 
of the best scientific and commercial information available and 
analyses of threats and demographics conclude that threats are being 
addressed and reduced throughout the species' range.
     Based on our review, we conclude that the West Indian 
manatee no longer meets the Act's definition of endangered and should 
be reclassified as threatened.

Public Comments

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule 
will be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request 
data, comments, and new information from concerned governmental 
agencies (including but not limited to State and Federal agencies and 
foreign governments), Native American Tribes, the scientific community, 
industry, or any other interested party concerning this proposed rule. 
The comments that will be most useful and likely to influence our 
decision are those that are supported by data or peer-reviewed studies 
and those that include citations

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to, and analyses of, applicable laws and regulations. Please make your 
comments as specific as possible and explain the basis for them. In 
addition, please include sufficient information with your comments to 
allow us to authenticate any scientific or commercial data you 
reference or provide. We particularly seek comments concerning the 
    (1) The historical and current status and distribution of the West 
Indian manatee within and outside the United States (including both of 
its subspecies, the Florida manatee and Antillean manatee), data 
regarding its biology and ecology, and ongoing conservation measures 
for the species and its habitat.
    (2) Relevant data concerning threats (or lack thereof) to West 
Indian manatees including any new data or models related to climate 
change, as well as the extent of regulatory protections and management 
that would continue to be provided to this species, if this rule were 
finalized and the West Indian manatee became a threatened species.
    (3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
population size, and trends for the West Indian manatee, including both 
of its subspecies.
    (4) Current or planned activities within the geographic range of 
the West Indian manatee that may impact or benefit the species, 
including activities that affect aquatic plant communities, freshwater 
and warm-water sources, sheltered waterbodies, boat access projects, 
port expansion projects, and others.
    Please note that submissions merely stating support for or 
opposition to the action under consideration without providing 
supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in 
making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that a 
determination as to whether any species is a threatened or endangered 
species must be made ``solely on the basis of the best scientific and 
commercial data available.''
    Prior to issuing a final rule on this proposed action, we will take 
into consideration all additional information and comments that we 
receive. Such information may lead to a final rule that differs from 
this proposal. All comments and recommendations, including names and 
addresses, will become part of the administrative record for the final 
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. Before including your 
address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying 
information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire 
comment--including your personal identifying information--may be made 
publicly available at any time.
    If you submit a comment via http://www.regulations.gov, your entire 
comment, including any personal identifying information, will be posted 
on the Web site. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your 
personal identifying information from public review, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so. Please note that comments 
posted to this Web site are not immediately viewable. When you submit a 
comment, the system receives it immediately. However, the comment will 
not be publically viewable until we post it, which might not occur 
until several days after submission.
    Similarly, if you mail or hand-deliver hardcopy comments that 
include personal identifying information, you may request at the top of 
your documents that we withhold this information from public review. 
However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. To ensure 
that the electronic docket for this rulemaking is complete and all 
comments we receive are publicly available, we will post all hardcopy 
comments on http://www.regulations.gov.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 
34270), we will seek the expert opinions of at least three specialists 
in the field who were not involved in developing this proposed rule. 
The purpose of such review is to ensure that our determination is based 
on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analysis. We will send 
peer reviewers copies of this proposed rule immediately following 
publication in the Federal Register. We will invite these peer 
reviewers to comment during the public comment period. We will consider 
all comments and information received from peer reviewers during the 
90-day comment period on this proposed rule, as we prepare a final 

Public Hearing

    Section 4(b)(5) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) provides for 
one or more public hearings on this proposal, if requested. Given the 
level of interest in this review, we have scheduled a formal public 
hearing to afford the public and all interested parties with an 
opportunity to make formal oral comments on the proposed 
reclassification of the West Indian manatee.
    We will hold the public hearing at the location listed in ADDRESSES 
on the date listed in DATES. The Public hearing will last from 3:00 
p.m. to 6:00 p.m. We will hold a public informational open house prior 
to the hearing from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to provide an additional 
opportunity for the public to gain information and ask questions about 
the proposed rule. This open house session should assist interested 
parties in preparing substantive comments on the proposed rule.
    Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in the public hearings should contact Chuck Underwood of 
the North Florida Ecological Services Office at 904-731-3332 or via 
email to [email protected] as soon as possible. In order to allow 
sufficient time to process requests, please contact us for assistance 
no later than 1 week before the hearing.
    Written comments submitted during the comment period receive equal 
consideration with oral comments presented at a public hearing. All 
comments we receive at the public hearing, both oral and written, will 
be considered in making our final decision.

Previous Federal Actions

    The Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), a subspecies 
of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), was listed as 
endangered in 1967 (32 FR 4001, March 11, 1967) under the Endangered 
Species Preservation Act of 1966 (Pub. L. 89-669; 80 Stat. 926). After 
adoption of the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 (Pub. L. 
91-135; 83 Stat. 275), the listing was amended in 1970 to expand the 
Florida manatee listing to include the West Indian manatee throughout 
its range, including in the Caribbean Sea and northern South America. 
This amendment added the Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) 
to the listing (35 FR 18319, December 2, 1970). Species listed under 
the Endangered Species Conservation Act, including the West Indian 
manatee, were subsequently grandfathered into the List of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), and the West Indian manatee remains listed as an 
endangered species under the Act. We originally issued a recovery plan 
for the West Indian manatee in 1980, which included both Florida and 
Antillean manatees. We completed a recovery plan for the Florida 
subspecies in 1989, revised it in 1996, and completed another in 2001 
(USFWS 2001). In 1986, we completed a recovery plan for the Puerto Rico 
population of the Antillean manatee (USFWS 1986).

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    We published notices in the Federal Register on July 22, 1985, and 
on November 6, 1991 (50 FR 29901 and 56 FR 56882, respectively), 
stating that we were conducting 5-year reviews for all endangered and 
threatened species listed before January 1, 1991, including the West 
Indian manatee. In 2005 and 2006, we published notices in the Federal 
Register (70 FR 19780, April 14, 2005; 71 FR 14940, March 24, 2006) 
that we were initiating another 5-year status review for the West 
Indian manatee. In this 5-year review, which was completed on April 6, 
2007, we recommended downlisting the species to threatened (USFWS 2007, 
p. 35). A copy of the 2007 5-year status review is available on our Web 
site (http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc3771.pdf).
    On December 14, 2012, we received a petition from the Pacific Legal 
Foundation on behalf of Save Crystal River, Inc., requesting that the 
West Indian manatee and its subspecies be reclassified from endangered 
to threatened under the Act, based primarily on the analysis and 
recommendation presented in our 2007 5-year review for the species. We 
reviewed the petition and found that it presented substantial 
information indicating that reclassifying the West Indian manatee to 
threatened may be warranted. We published a notice announcing our 90-
day finding and initiation of the species' status review in the Federal 
Register on July 2, 2014 (79 FR 37706).

Current Federal Action

    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act requires that, for any petition to 
revise the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants 
(Lists) that presents substantial information, we make a finding within 
12 months of the date of the receipt of the petition on whether the 
requested action is either (a) not warranted, (b) warranted, or (c) 
warranted but precluded from immediate proposal. This proposed rule 
constitutes our 12-month finding that the action sought by the December 
2012 petition is warranted. To ensure that our review is complete and 
based on the best available scientific and commercial information, in 
our July 2, 2014, Federal Register notice of the 90-day finding we 
solicited information from the public on the status of the West Indian 
manatee, threats to the species, conservation measures for the species, 
and other relevant information.
    We received 49,571 comments from the public in response to our 
notice of status review. Most were in relation to the Florida manatee 
(Trichechus manatus latirostris), and most of those were emails or 
letters expressing either support for or opposition to the action being 
considered, with no supporting information. These comments were noted 
but are not being considered in preparation of this proposed rule. 
Several submittals, however, shared peer-reviewed literature, 
observations from State and Federal partners, and survey data, and 
these data were considered and are addressed as appropriate. Similarly, 
the few species-specific reports we received on the Antillean manatee 
(Trichechus manatus manatus) were also evaluated and incorporated as 

Species Information


    The range of the West Indian manatee includes the southeastern 
United States (primarily Florida), the east coast of Mexico and Central 
America, northeastern South America, the Greater Antilles (Cuba, 
Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica), and parts of the Lesser 
Antilles, including Trinidad and Tobago. Manatees in the southeastern 
United States are found in Florida year-round and occasionally in 
Georgia and Alabama during the warmer months, and vagrants can be found 
as far north as Massachusetts and as far west as Texas (Beck 2015, 
unpubl. data; Fertl et al. 2005, p. 74; Domning and Hayek 1986, p. 136; 
Lowery 1974, p. 481; Gunter 1941, p. 64). Florida vagrants are also 
known to occur in the Bahamas and Cuba (Melillo-Sweeting et al. 2011, 
p. 505; Alvarez-Alem[aacute]n et al. 2010, p. 148; Odell et al. 1978, 
p. 289).
    Outside of the southeastern United States, the West Indian manatee 
has an extensive but fragmented distribution (Marsh et al. 2011, p. 
384) and occurs in 20 countries (Table 1). Manatees are found in the 
Greater Antilles (i.e., Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico) and 
discontinuously along the Gulf coast of Mexico, the Caribbean coast of 
Central and South America, and along the Atlantic coast of South 
America as far south as Bahia, Brazil (Self-Sullivan and Mignucci-
Giannoni 2012, p. 36). Except for rare sightings, manatees are no 
longer found in the Lesser Antilles (i.e., those Caribbean islands 
extending from the Virgin Islands to Grenada) (Lefebvre et al. 2001, p. 
425). The few individuals that have been reported for the U.S. and 
British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, Cayman Islands, St. Maarten, 
Curacao, and Bonaire are considered vagrant from nearby populations 
(Self-Sullivan and Mignucci-Giannoni 2012, p. 40; USFWS 2007, p. 27).
    In Puerto Rico, recent island-wide aerial surveys flown to 
characterize manatee distribution patterns (USFWS Manatee Aerial 
Surveys 2015, unpubl. data) confirm the observations of Powell et al. 
(1981, p. 644) and Rathbun et al. (1985, p. 9) that manatees are most 
frequently observed along the south-central and eastern coasts and not 
on the northwestern coast. The former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station 
(RRNS) area, the northwest coast of Vieques, Bah[iacute]a de Jobos, and 
Guayanilla consistently presented a high number of observations (USFWS 
Manatee Aerial Surveys, 2015 unpubl. data). In localized aerial surveys 
on the southwestern coast, between Cabo Rojo and Ponce, sightings were 
common throughout the region, but concentrated at Cabo Rojo, 
Bah[iacute]a Bioluminiscente and Montalva in Lajas, and Bah[iacute]as 
de Guayanilla and Tallaboa in Guayanilla (Mignucci-Giannoni 2006, p. 

   Table 1--West Indian Manatees, Range Countries Where Found: Trends, Population Estimates, National Listing
    [Abbreviations: U-Unknown; D-Declining; S-Stable; I-Increasing; En-Endangered; CrEn-Critically Endangered
 (adapted from UNEP 2010, p. 11 and Castelblanco-Mart[iacute]nez et al. 2012, p. 132, Martin et al. 2015, p. 44,
                                            unless otherwise cited).]
                                  Country               Trend \1\        estimate \1\    National listing status
                                            Greater Antilles (1,382)
1A \2\..................  United States (Puerto    S                     \3\ 532 (mean)  En (PRDNER 2004).
2.......................  Cuba...................  U/D                              500  En ([Aacute]lvarez-
                                                                                          Alem[aacute]n 2012).
3.......................  Haiti..................  U                                100  No information.
4.......................  Dominican Republic.....  D                                200  CrEn (MMARNRD 2011).

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5.......................  Jamaica................  U/D                               50  No information.
                                         Mexico, Central America (3,600)
6.......................  Mexico.................  U                              1,500  En.
7.......................  Belize.................  U/D                            1,000  En.
8.......................  Guatemala..............  U                                150  CrEn (CONAP 2009).
9.......................  Honduras...............  S                                100  No information.
10......................  Costa Rica.............  D                                200  En.
11......................  Panama.................  U                                150  No information.
12......................  Nicaragua..............  D                                500  No information.
                                              South America (1,800)
13......................  Colombia...............  U/D                              500  CrEn (Rodr[iacute]guez-
                                                                                          Mahecha et al. 2006).
14......................  Venezuela..............  D                                200  CrEn (Ojasti and
                                                                                          Lacabana 2008).
15......................  Suriname...............  D                                100  No information.
16......................  French Guiana..........  S                                100  No information.
17......................  Guyana.................  D                                100  No information.
18......................  Trinidad and Tobago....  D                                100  En (MCT 2002).
19......................  Brazil.................  U/D                              700  CrEn (Barbosa et al.
                                              North America (6,360)
20......................  The Bahamas............  I                                 10  No information.
21B \2\.................  United States            S/I                            6,350  En (FAC 68A-27.0031).
                      Total Estimated Population                                 13,142
\1\ Trends and estimates described in Table 1 for manatee populations outside the United States are, in large
  part, based on the personal opinions of local experts and are not based on quantified analyses of trends in
  country population counts or demographics. Such data from these countries are limited or absent, making most
  of these assessments conjectural (UNEP 2010, p. xiv).
\2\ Note that Locations 1A and 21B refer to manatee populations in the United States (in Puerto Rico and the
  southeastern United States, respectively).
\3\ Based on adjusted aerial survey counts (Pollock et al. 2013, p. 8).

    West Indian manatees are at the northern limit of their range in 
the southeastern United States. This limitation is based on the 
species' intolerance for cold. Prolonged exposure to cold water 
temperatures results in debilitation and/or death due to cold stress 
syndrome (Bossart et al. 2004, p. 435; Rommel et al. 2002, p. 4). At 
this northern reach of their range, manatees historically relied upon 
warm, temperate coastal and inshore waters in south Florida and on 
natural warm-water springs scattered throughout the area for warmth. 
Industrial outfalls, including power plant effluents, have expanded the 
manatees' range in Florida since their appearance in the 1940s. A 
majority of manatees now winter at these sites.
    In Florida, manatees have been identified as occurring in four, 
relatively distinct, regional management units (formerly referred to as 
subpopulations): An Atlantic Coast unit that occupies the east coast of 
Florida, including the Florida Keys and the lower St. Johns River north 
of Palatka; an Upper St. Johns River unit that occurs in the river 
south of Palatka; a Northwest unit that occupies the Florida Panhandle 
south to Hernando County; and a Southwest unit that occurs from Pasco 
County south to Whitewater Bay in Monroe County (USFWS 2001, p. 3 and 
2007c, pp. 12-13; Figure 1). Each of these management units includes 
individual manatees that tend to return to the same warm-water site(s) 
each winter and have similar non-winter distribution patterns. The 
exchange of individuals between these units is limited during the 
winter months, based on data from telemetry studies (Rathbun et al. 
1990, entire; Reid et al. 1991, pp. 180-181; Deutsch et al. 1998, 
entire; Weigle et al. 2001, entire; Deutsch et al. 2003, entire) and 
photo-identification studies (Rathbun et al. 1990, entire; USGS Sirenia 
Project Manatee Individual Photo-identification System (MIPS), 2015, 
unpubl. data; Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC 
Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) MIPS, 2015, unpubl. data).

Taxonomy and Species Description

    The West Indian manatee, Trichechus manatus, is one of three living 
species of the genus Trichechus (Rice 1998, p. 129). The West Indian 
manatee includes two recognized subspecies, the Antillean manatee, 
Trichechus manatus manatus, and the Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus 
latirostris (Rice 1998, p. 129). Each subspecies has distinctive 
morphological features and occurs in discrete areas with rare overlap 
between ranges (Hatt 1934, p. 538; Domning and Hayek 1986, p. 136; and 
Alvarez-Alem[aacute]n et al. 2010, p. 148). Recent genetic studies 
substantiate the uniqueness of the Florida subspecies, as its genetic 
characteristics have been compared with other populations from the 
Antillean subspecies found in Puerto Rico and Belize (Hunter et al. 
2010, p. 599; Hunter et al. 2012, p. 1631).
    West Indian manatees are large, fusiform-shaped animals (wide in 
the middle and tapered at both ends) with skin that is uniformly dark 
grey, wrinkled, sparsely haired, and rubber-

[[Page 1004]]

like. Manatees possess paddle-like forelimbs, no hind limbs, and a 
round, beaver-like tail. Their bones are massive and heavy with no 
marrow cavities in the ribs or long bones of the forearms (Odell 1982, 
p. 829). Adults average about 3.0 meters (m) (9.8 feet [ft]) in length 
and 400 kilograms (kg) (900 pounds [lb]) in weight, but may reach 
lengths of up to 4.5 m (15 ft) (Husar 1978, p. 1) and weigh as much as 
1,620 kg (3,570 lb) (Rathbun et al. 1990, p. 23). Newborns average 1.2 
to 1.4 m (4 to 4.5 ft) in length and weigh about 30 kg (66 lb) (Odell 
1981, p. 134). The nostrils, located on the upper snout, open and close 
by means of muscular valves as the animals surface and dive (Husar 
1977, p. 2; Hartman 1979, p. 73). A muscular, flexible, upper lip is 
used with the forelimbs to manipulate food into the mouth (Hartman 
1979, p. 85). Bristles are located on the upper and lower lip pads 
(Marshall et al. 2000, p. 649). Molars designed to crush vegetation 
form continuously at the back of the jaw and move forward as older ones 
wear down (Domning and Hayek 1984, p. 105). The eyes are very small, 
close with sphincter action, and are equipped with inner membranes that 
can be drawn across the eyeball for protection. Externally, the ears 
are minute with no pinnae (Husar 1977, p. 2).

Lifespan, Mating, and Reproduction

    The lifespan of the manatee is not known with certainty. There is a 
record in Florida of a captive 67-year old manatee (South Florida 
Museum 2015), and there are documented longevity records of over 55 
years in the wild. The average age of Florida manatees dying in Florida 
is 7.7 years (Pitchford 2009 p. 22). Manatee mortality records from 
Puerto Rico found adults aged from 22 to 28 years old (Mignucci-
Giannoni et al. 2000, p. 194).
    Manatees generally become sexually mature between 3 to 5 years of 
age (Boyd et al. 1999 and Glaser and Reynolds 1997, in UNEP 2010, p. 
4), and female manatees continue reproducing in the wild into their 
thirties (Marmontel 1995, in UNEP 2010, p. 4). After a gestation period 
of between 11 and 14 months (Rathbun et al. 1995, Reynolds and Odell 
1991, in UNEP 2010, p. 4), female manatees usually give birth to a 
single calf, although there are a few documented cases of twins 
(Marmontel 1995, Rathbun et al. 1995, SEMARNAT 2001, Wells et al. 1999, 
in UNEP 2010, p. 4).
    West Indian manatees use a wide variety of freshwater, estuarine, 
and marine habitats for their life-history needs (i.e., feeding and 
drinking, traveling, resting, thermoregulation, mating, and nursing) 
and survival. Manatees feed on freshwater and marine plants, including 
submergent, emergent, and shoreline vegetation. Significantly, manatees 
seek out sources of fresh drinking water, especially when in marine and 
estuarine habitats. Manatees tend to travel along the waterward edges 
of plant beds and in and near channels. Sheltered embayments and other 
such areas are used for resting and, for mothers with calves, as areas 
to nurse and nurture offspring. Mating activity takes place in all 
types of habitat; estrus females prefer shallow areas where they can 
rest from mating activity. In the inland and coastal waters of 
peninsular Florida, manatees use warm-water springs, warm industrial 
outfalls, and other warm-water sites as shelter during the winter 
months (Hartman, 1974, pp. 8-30, Lefebvre et al. 2001, pp. 451-453, 
Stith et al. 2006, pp. 4-5), several of which are designated manatee 
protection areas. In warmer months, manatees leave these sites and can 
disperse great distances.
    Manatees in Central and South America are found in coastal rivers 
and estuaries, while those in the Antilles are found more often in 
coastal marine habitats (Lefebvre et al. 2001, p. 463). In Puerto Rico, 
Antillean manatees are mostly found in protected bays and shallow coves 
with seagrass beds for feeding and resting and utilize river mouths and 
estuaries when seeking freshwater for drinking. Seagrass, freshwater, 
and shelter are described as the three primary ecological attributes 
needed to ensure long-term manatee survival in Puerto Rico (Drew et al. 
2012, p. 19). Outside the United States, manatees occur within 
estuaries, lagoons, and interconnected rivers, such as those found in 
Chetumal Bay between Mexico and Belize. Chetumal Bay is a specially 
designated manatee protection area and wildlife sanctuary (UNEP 2010, 
p. 60).
    Several factors can affect the viability of manatee habitats. Human 
activities such as dredge and fill, soil runoff, propeller dredging, 
anchoring, etc., are known to result in the loss of seagrass and 
foraging habitat (Duarte 2002, p. 194; Orth et al. 2006, p. 991). For 
example, dredging will directly remove seagrass, and sediment, 
suspended in the water column during dredge and fill activities, may 
cover neighboring seagrass beds (Auil 1998, p. 9). A significant 
decrease of this resource could cause stress to the population by 
limiting manatee grazing habitats and range.
    The loss of manatees from certain areas has been attributed to, 
among other factors, dam construction along rivers (Colmenero-
Rol[oacute]n and Hoz-Zavala 1986, in UNEP 2010, p. 59; Montoya-Ospina 
et al. 2001, in UNEP 2010, p. 29). Historically, anthropogenic 
influences (i.e., dams, drainage of wetlands, mangrove destruction, 
etc.) have altered manatee habitat significantly and thus affected the 
number of animals along the coast and their movements between fresh and 
saltwater areas (Amour 1993, in Lefebvre et al. 2001, p. 447; Boyle and 
Khan 1993, in Lefebvre et al. 2001, p. 447; Correa-Viana 1995, in 
Lefebvre et al. 2001, p. 446; Montoya-Ospina et al. 2001, in UNEP 2010, 
p. 30; MCT 2002, p. 15; Serrano et al. 2007, p. 109). As discussed 
below, in Florida, warm-water natural spring areas essential for the 
manatee's survival are threatened by numerous factors, including 
diminishing spring flows, deteriorating water quality, and increasing 
human activities in and around spring areas (Taylor 2006, pp. 5-6).

Population Size

    Within the southeastern United States, Martin et al. (2015 entire) 
provide an abundance estimate for the Florida subspecies of 6,350 
manatees (with a 95 percent CI (confidence interval) between 5,310 and 
7,390). Outside the southeastern United States, available population 
estimates are based on data of highly variable quality and should be 
considered only as crude approximations (UNEP 2010, p. xiv). Available 
population estimates suggest that there may be as many as 1,382 
manatees in the Greater Antilles, 3,600 manatees in Mexico and Central 
America, and 1,800 manatees in South America (Table 1). This 
information reflects the broad distribution of the species and suggests 
a relatively medium to large range-wide population estimate. A sum of 
all estimates totals 13,142 manatees for the species throughout its 
range (See Table 1; UNEP 2010, p. 11; Castelblanco-Mart[iacute]nez et 
al. 2012, p. 132; Marsh et al. 2011, p. 385; Self-Sullivan and Mignucci 
2012, p. 40; Martin et al. 2015, entire). Total estimates for manatees 
outside the southeastern United States and Puerto Rico alone range 
between approximately 3,000 and 6,700 individuals, including adults, 
subadults, and calves, of which fewer than 2,500 are estimated to be 
reproductively mature animals (Self-Sullivan and Mignucci-Giannoni 
2012, p. 40). Castelblanco-Mart[iacute]nez et al. (2012, p. 132) 
adapted the UNEP (2010, p. 11) numbers and used an estimated initial 
size of 6,700 individuals in their

[[Page 1005]]

population viability analysis (PVA) model for the Antillean manatee 
    The Martin et al. (2015) study referenced above is the first 
quantified estimate of abundance for the Florida manatee in the 
southeastern United States. This estimate relied upon innovative survey 
techniques and multiple sources of information to estimate a Florida 
manatee population of 6,350 animals (Martin et al. 2015, p. 44). In 
Puerto Rico, the Service recently updated aerial survey methods to 
account for detection probability, which provides an improved 
population estimate. A total of six island-wide aerial surveys have 
been completed with this new method. These have resulted in the most 
robust counts available for the population, with an average direct 
minimum population count of 149 individuals (standard deviation (SD) 
31). Calf numbers have also been documented with an average minimum 
direct calf count of 14 (SD 5) or approximately 10 percent of the 
direct minimum population count. A record high of 23 calves were 
counted in the December 2013 survey. The October 2010 survey count 
analysis resulted in an adjusted mean estimated population size of 532 
individuals, with a 95 percent equal area confidence interval (CI) of 
342-802 manatees (Pollock et al. 2013, p. 8).

Population Trends

    In 2008, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature 
(IUCN) identified the West Indian manatee as a ``Vulnerable'' species 
throughout its range based on an estimate of less than 10,000 mature 
individuals (Deutsch et al. 2008, http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22103/0). The population was expected to decline at a rate of 10 
percent over the course of three generations (i.e., 60 years; 1 
generation = circa 20 years) due to habitat loss and other 
anthropogenic factors (Deutsch et al. 2008, online). However, each of 
the subspecies (Antillean and Florida) by themselves was considered to 
be endangered and declining due to a variety of threats identified in 
the IUCN classification criteria (Deutsch et al. 2008, online). As we 
have noted above, our estimate of the total West Indian manatee 
population currently is 13,142 (Table 1).
    To the extent that it can be measured with the best available data, 
the West Indian manatee population trend and status varies regionally 
(Table 1). In the southeastern United States, the manatee population 
has grown, based on updated adult survival rate estimates and estimated 
growth rates (Runge et al. 2015, p. 19). Historical and anecdotal 
accounts outside the southeastern United States suggest that manatees 
were once more common, leading scientists to hypothesize that 
significant declines have occurred (Lefebvre et al. 2001, p. 425; UNEP 
2010, p. 11; Self-Sullivan and Mignucci-Giannoni 2012, p. 37). Based on 
expert and local opinion, population trends are declining or unknown in 
84 percent of the countries where manatees are found (UNEP 2010, p. 11; 
Marsh et al. 2011, p. 385; Self-Sullivan and Mignucci-Giannoni 2012, p. 
40; Table 1). The magnitude of decline is difficult to assess, given 
the qualitative nature of these accounts (see footnote Table 1). For 
example, Bertram and Bertram (1973, p. 318) noted that there were 
several thousand manatees in Guyana in 1963, but recent estimates 
suggest that there may be as few as 100 manatees remaining (UNEP 2010, 
p. 11). It is not known if this represents an actual decline or 
differences in expert opinion over time.
    In the Castelblanco-Mart[iacute]nez et al. (2012, pp. 129-143) PVA 
model for the manatee metapopulation found outside the United States, 
discussed above, the authors divided the metapopulation into six 
subpopulations identified by geographic features, local genetic 
structure, ranging behavior, and habitat use. Using an initial 
metapopulation size of 6,700 Antillean manatees, with low human 
pressure and a relatively low frequency of stochastic events, their 
baseline PVA model describes a metapopulation with positive growth. The 
authors explain that the model is limited due to a lack of certainty 
with regard to the estimated size of the population, it does not take 
into account trends in local populations, and it assumes that all 
threats have an equal effect on the different subpopulations. 
Castelblanco-Mart[iacute]nez et al. (2012, pp. 141-142) state that no 
quantitative information exists for manatees outside the southeastern 
United States and that ``experts and local people throughout the region 
agree that the number of manatees sighted per year has decreased over 
time.'' However, manatee populations in Puerto Rico, Honduras, and 
French Guiana, where an estimated 732 manatees are found, are thought 
to be stable (Table 1).
    In the southeastern United States, new population growth rates for 
Florida's Atlantic Coast, Upper St. Johns River, Northwest, and 
Southwest Regions describe growth in each region through the 2008-2009 
winter season (Runge et al. 2015, p. 7). More recent data are 
unavailable at the present time. Regional adult survival rate estimates 
were also updated through the same period and are higher and more 
precise for all regions since the last estimates were provided (Runge 
et al. 2015, p. 7; USFWS 2007, p. 65). Because the updates are through 
the 2008-2009 winter, they do not capture recent severe cold events of 
2009-2010 and 2010-2011, the 2012-present Indian River Lagoon (IRL) 
die-off event; or the 2013 red tide event (Runge et al. 2015, p. 20; 
Table 2).

                                                            Table 2--Manatee Deaths 2009-2014
                                             [FWC FWRI Manatee Carcass Salvage Database 2015, unpubl. data]
                                                                                                                             Number of
                                                          Number of cold-  Number of IRL   Number of red   Number of all   deaths due to    Deaths from
                          Year                            related deaths   event deaths    tide-related       die-off        all other      all causes
                                                                                \1\           deaths      related deaths      causes
2014....................................................              26               2               2              30             341             371
2013....................................................              36             118             276             430             400             830
2012....................................................              28              15              33              76             316             392
2011....................................................             113               0              23             136             327             463
2010....................................................         \2\ 288               0               0         \2\ 288             478             766
    Total...............................................             491             135             334             960           1,862           2,822
\1\ Indian River Lagoon event, 2012 to present (ongoing).
\2\ Confirmed cold-related deaths; an additional 197 cold-related deaths are suspected.

[[Page 1006]]

    In Florida, FWC conducts a series of statewide aerial and ground 
surveys of warm-water sites known to be visited by manatees during 
cold-weather extremes to count numbers of manatees. These surveys are 
conducted from one to three times each winter, depending on weather 
conditions (FWC FWRI Manatee aerial surveys, 2015, unpubl. data). While 
the number of manatees has increased over the years, in and of 
themselves they are not considered to be reliable indicators of 
population trends, given concerns about detection probabilities. 
However, it is likely that a significant amount of the increase does 
reflect an actual increase in population size when this count is 
considered in the context of other positive demographic indicators, 
including the recently updated growth and survival rates (Runge et al. 
2015, p. 19).
    In January 2010, FWC counted 5,077 manatees during a statewide 
survey prior to the start of the 2010 die-off. From 2010 through 2014, 
at least 2,822 manatees died (Table 2). In February 2015, researchers 
counted 6,063 manatees during a statewide survey (FWC FWRI Manatee 
aerial surveys 2015, unpubl. data). These counts made before and after 
the die-offs, when considered in the context of positive demographic 
indicators (i.e., growth rates and adult survival rate estimates), 
suggest a certain resiliency in the Florida population (FWC FWRI 
Manatee aerial surveys 2015, unpubl. data); Runge et al. 2015, p. 19).


    Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and implement 
recovery plans for the conservation and survival of listed species, 
unless we find that such a plan will not promote conservation of the 
species. Although the West Indian manatee is listed throughout its 
range, Service recovery planning efforts for the West Indian manatee 
focused mostly on those portions of the species' range within U.S. 
jurisdiction. We published an initial recovery plan for the West Indian 
manatee in 1980 (USFWS 1980) and subsequently published recovery plans 
at the subspecies level for manatees found within the United States. At 
present, approved plans include the Recovery Plan for the Puerto Rican 
Population of the Antillean manatee (USFWS 1986); the Florida Manatee 
Recovery Plan, Third Revision (USFWS 2001); and the South Florida 
Multi-Species Recovery Plan (USFWS 1999).
    Section 4(f) of the Act directs that, to the maximum extent 
practicable, we incorporate into each recovery plan: (1) Site-specific 
management actions that may be necessary to achieve the plan's goals 
for conservation and survival of the species; (2) objective, measurable 
criteria, which when met would result in a determination, in accordance 
with the provisions of section 4 of the Act, that the species be 
removed from the list; and (3) estimates of the time required and cost 
to carry out the plan.
    Revisions to the List (adding, removing, or reclassifying a 
species) must reflect determinations made in accordance with section 
4(a)(1) and 4(b). Section 4(a)(1) requires that the Secretary determine 
whether a species is threatened or endangered (or not) because of one 
or more of five threat factors. Therefore, recovery criteria must 
indicate when a species is no longer threatened or endangered by any of 
these five factors. In other words, objective, measurable criteria 
contained in recovery plans (recovery criteria) must indicate when an 
analysis of the five factors under section 4(a)(1) would result in a 
determination that a species is no longer threatened or endangered. 
Section 4(b) requires that the determination made under section 4(a)(1) 
be based on the best available science.
    Thus, while recovery plans are intended to provide guidance to the 
Service, States, and other partners on methods of minimizing threats to 
listed species and on criteria that may be used to determine when 
recovery is achieved, they are not regulatory documents and cannot 
substitute for the determinations and promulgation of regulations 
required under section 4(a)(1). Determinations to remove or reclassify 
a species from the list made under section 4(a)(1) must be based on the 
best scientific and commercial data available at the time of the 
determination, regardless of whether that information differs from the 
recovery plan.
    In the course of implementing conservation actions for a species, 
new information is often gained that requires recovery efforts to be 
modified accordingly. There are many paths to accomplishing recovery of 
a species, and recovery may be achieved without all criteria being 
fully met. For example, one or more criteria may have been exceeded 
while other criteria may not have been accomplished, yet the Service 
may judge that, overall, the threats have been minimized sufficiently, 
and the species is robust enough, to reclassify the species from 
endangered to threatened or perhaps even delist the species. In other 
cases, recovery opportunities may have been recognized that were not 
known at the time the recovery plan was finalized. These opportunities 
may be used instead of methods identified in the recovery plan.
    Likewise, information on the species may be learned that was not 
known at the time the recovery plan was finalized. The new information 
may change the extent that criteria need to be met for recognizing 
recovery of the species. Overall, recovery of species is a dynamic 
process requiring adaptive management, planning, implementing, and 
evaluating the degree of recovery of a species that may, or may not, 
fully follow the guidance provided in a recovery plan.
    The following discussion provides a review of recovery planning and 
implementation for the West Indian manatee, as well as an analysis of 
the recovery criteria and goals as they relate to evaluating the status 
of the species.

Recovery Actions

    Recovery and conservation actions for the West Indian manatee are 
described in the ``UNEP Caribbean Environment[al] Program's Regional 
Management Plan for the West Indian Manatee'' (UNEP 2010, entire) and 
in national conservation plans for countries outside the United States. 
Within the United States, the Service's Recovery Plan for the Puerto 
Rico Population of the West Indian (Antillean) Manatee (USFWS 1986, 
entire), the South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan (USFWS 1999, 
entire), and the Florida Manatee Recovery Plan (USFWS 2001, entire) 
identify recovery and conservation actions for the species. Actions 
common to all plans include minimizing manatee mortality and injury, 
protecting manatee habitats, and monitoring manatee populations and 
    UNEP Caribbean Environment[al] Program's Regional Management Plan 
for the West Indian Manatee, National Conservation Plans (outside the 
United States)
    The UNEP plan, published in 2010, identifies short- and long-term 
conservation and research measures that should be implemented to 
conserve the West Indian manatee. This plan also includes an overview 
of West Indian manatees within their range countries, including 
descriptions of regional and national conservation measures and 
research programs that have been implemented. Given the general lack of 
information about manatees in most range countries, the plan recommends 
that needed research and the development of common methodologies be 
prioritized in concert with coordinated manatee and manatee habitat 
protection efforts (UNEP 2010, entire).

[[Page 1007]]

    Within the species' range, foundations for coordinated conservation 
and research activities are developing and a number of governments have 
designated manatee protection areas and have developed or are 
developing conservation plans (UNEP 2010, p. xiv). National legislation 
exists for manatees in all range countries, and many countries have 
ratified their participation in international conventions and protocols 
that protect manatees and their habitat (UNEP 2010, p. xv). See 
Supplemental Documents 1 and 3 in Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2015-0178. 
Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, the United States, 
Puerto Rico, and Trinidad have developed country-specific manatee 
recovery plans (UNEP 2010, p. 92).
    Efforts to conserve manatees outside the United States vary 
significantly from country to country. Some countries, including but 
not limited to Mexico, Belize, Brazil, and Cuba, are engaged in efforts 
to assess current status and distribution of manatees. Many countries, 
including Belize and Brazil, provide protections for manatees and their 
habitat. For example, the manatee in Belize is listed as endangered 
under Belize's Wildlife Protection Act of 1981. Belize protects 
manatees from overexploitation, and its recovery plan implements 
recovery actions similar to those identified in the Florida and Puerto 
Rico recovery plans. Efforts to protect manatees include education and 
outreach efforts, and countries are promoting cooperation and 
information exchanges through venues such as the recent Cartagena 
Convention meetings (UNEP 2014, entire). A successful cooperative 
initiative identified at the meetings includes the implementation of 
manatee bycatch surveys in the Dominican Republic, Belize, Colombia, 
and Mexico (Kiszka 2014, entire). We are encouraged by the progress 
that is being made in several portions of the Antillean manatee's range 
in protecting this mammal and the growing enthusiasm behind 
implementing recovery to better protect this important species. In the 
future, we would like to support and reach out to these countries to 
assist them with their efforts to further conserve manatees.

Recovery Plan for the Puerto Rico Population of the West Indian 
(Antillean) Manatee

    We approved the Recovery Plan for the Puerto Rico population of the 
West Indian (Antillean) manatee on December 24, 1986 (USFWS 1986, 
entire). Although this plan is considered out of date (USFWS 2007, p. 
26), we present the progress we have made under the identified tasks. 
The 1986 plan included three major objectives: (1) To identify, assess, 
and reduce human-related mortalities, especially those related to gill-
net entanglement; (2) to identify and minimize alteration, degradation, 
and destruction of important manatee habitats; and (3) to develop 
criteria and biological information necessary to determine whether and 
when to reclassify (either delist or downlist) the Puerto Rico 
population (USFWS 1986, p. 12). The Recovery Plan also includes a step-
down outline that identifies two primary recovery actions for: (1) 
Population management and (2) habitat protection. Since the release of 
the 1986 Recovery Plan for the Puerto Rico population of the West 
Indian (Antillean) manatee, initiated recovery actions have provided 
substantial new knowledge about the species' ecology and threats. Some 
of these efforts apply to multiple tasks and are helping to update 
conservation information and tools that are applied towards adaptive 
management and education. Here we report on the current status of these 
    Recovery Task (1): Population management. Recovery actions under 
this task include: (11) Reduce human-caused mortality, (12) determine 
manatee movement patterns and trends in abundance and distribution, 
(13) assess contaminant concentrations in manatees, (15) determine 
quantitative recovery criteria, and (16) develop manatee protection 
plans for areas of specific importance.
    Recovery Task (2): Habitat protection. Recovery actions under this 
task include: (11) Radio-tag manatees to determine habitat utilization, 
(12) determine and map distribution of seagrass beds and sources of 
fresh water, and (13) monitor important habitat components and ensure 
    A carcass salvage program was first implemented in the late 1970s 
and continues today. Mignucci-Giannoni et al. (2000, p. 189) provided 
an analysis of stranding data and identified sources of human-caused 
mortality. This summarization of data points indicates a shift in the 
nature of threats since the release of the 1986 Recovery Plan, which 
listed poaching, direct capture, and entanglement as the most 
significant threats to manatees. Watercraft collision is now considered 
the greatest threat to manatees in Puerto Rican waters (Mignucci et al. 
2000, p. 189; Drew et al. 2012, p. 26). Currently, carcass salvage 
efforts are led by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and 
Environmental Resources (PRDNER) with support from the Puerto Rico 
Manatee Conservation Center (PRMCC) (the former Caribbean Stranding 
Network or CSN) and the Puerto Rico Zoo. There has not been a record of 
poaching since 1995 as a result of increased public awareness of the 
protected status of the manatee. The successful rehabilitation and 
release of the captive manatee ``Moises'' in 1994, a manatee calf 
stranded after the mother had been killed by poachers, served to incite 
a change of cultural values and increase awareness about threats to 
manatees (Marsh and Lefebvre 1994, p. 157).
    Documented entanglement in fishing nets rarely occurs. However, in 
2014, three adult manatees were entangled in large fishing nets; one of 
them was an adult female that died (PRDNER 2015, unpubl. data). 
Significant exposure was given to this case through the local and 
social media. Current PRDNER fishing regulations still allow the use of 
beach seine nets with certain prohibitions that need to be carefully 
monitored. Fisheries-related entanglements and debris ingestion are 
rarely documented but may occur and cause take of manatees. A recent 
instance was noticed in August 2014, where an adult female was 
confirmed to have both flippers severely entangled in monofilament 
line. Attempts to capture the female manatee from the shore were 
unsuccessful. This manatee has not been observed since that time. 
Agencies, community groups, and nongovernmental organizations in Puerto 
Rico consistently educate the public about proper waste disposal that 
can affect manatees.
    In 2012, the Service completed a cooperative agreement with 
researchers from North Carolina State University (NCSU) to identify 
potential Manatee Protection Areas (MPAs) and address some of the core 
recommendations made by the most recent West Indian manatee 5-year 
review, such as the establishment of MPAs (USFWS 2007, p. 37). This 
collaboration led to the identification of several potential MPAs and 
serves to update the body of knowledge pertaining to key ecological 
resources used by manatees (i.e., seagrass, shelter, freshwater) and 
the current status of threats to the Antillean manatee (Drew et al. 
2012, pp. 1, 33-34). MPAs serve to prevent the take of one or more 
manatees (USFWS 1979). The MPA selection criteria considered key 
manatee resources (i.e., seagrass, shelter, freshwater), manatee aerial 
surveys, and areas where take can be minimized. After expert 
elicitation and a thorough literature review, available data were 
spatially analyzed and described to reflect manatee use and habitat 

[[Page 1008]]

    Federal MPAs have not been designated in Puerto Rico, and the 
PRDNER does not have a specific manatee area regulation like the State 
of Florida's Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978 (FMSA), which allows for 
management and enforcement of boat speed restrictions and operations in 
areas where manatees are concentrated. Still, the PRDNER has the 
authority to establish boat speed regulatory areas marked with buoys 
wherever deemed necessary. For example, in 2014, the USFWS, PRDNER, and 
Reefscaping, Inc. finalized the installation of 100 manatee speed 
regulatory buoys throughout known important manatee use areas, and the 
PRDNER has a plan to install more buoys. In addition, the Navigation 
and Aquatic Safety Law for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Law 430) 
was implemented in 2000. This law restricts boat speeds to 5 miles per 
hour within 150 feet (45 meters) from the coastline unless otherwise 
posted. However, the effectiveness of this law and State manatee speed 
regulatory buoys have not been appropriately assessed, and enforcement 
is limited (see Factor D).
    In Puerto Rico, island-wide manatee aerial surveys have been 
conducted since the late 1970s. These aerial surveys provide the basis 
for island-wide distribution patterns and to determine minimum 
population direct counts in some areas or throughout the island. Not 
all surveys were equal in terms of the area covered and time of year in 
which they were done. These direct counts identify a number of animals 
observed at the time of the survey and suggest that there are at least 
a specified number of manatees in the population. The Service 
recognizes that these counts do not accurately represent the total 
number of manatees in the population. Weather, other environmental 
factors (e.g., water clarity), observer bias, and aerial survey space 
restrictions influence count conditions and affect detection 
probability and final count, thus likely the true number of individuals 
is underestimated. Furthermore, as in the Florida manatee aerial 
surveys, survey methods preclude any analysis of precision and 
variability in the counts, and do not allow for the estimation of the 
apparent detection probability. In spite of the high variability 
between and within surveys, the data can be used to specify a minimum 
population direct count within a time period (one island-wide survey).
    The most consistent surveys were conducted from 1984 to 2002 (USFWS 
Manatee Aerial Surveys 2015, unpubl. data). However, methods used 
provided only a direct count and did not allow for a more reliable 
estimate of population size with detection probabilities (Pollock et 
al. 2013, p. 2). Hence, estimates of population size are likely biased 
low, and inferences from trend analyses are unreliable. The Service 
again partnered with researchers from the NCSU to conduct a review of 
aerial survey protocols and implement a sampling protocol that allows 
the estimation of a detection probability (Pollock et al. 2013, pp. 2-
4). In 2010, the Service partnered with Atkins (private consultant) to 
implement the new sampling protocol in order to provide for more 
reliable population estimates. A total of six aerial surveys were 
completed from 2010 to 2014 in order to test the new protocol and 
population estimate calculations. Data are still being reviewed, but 
results from the October 2010 survey derived an estimated average 
population size of 532 manatees in Puerto Rico, with a 95 percent equal 
area confidence interval of 342-802 manatees (Pollock et al. 2013, p. 
    Recovery actions are also implemented during technical assistance 
and project review. Any action or project with a Federal nexus (e.g., 
Federal funds, permits, or actions) will require a consultation with 
the Service under section 7 of the Act. During the consultation 
process, the Service identifies conservation measures to avoid and 
minimize possible effects of proposed actions or projects. We review 
numerous projects each year pertaining to the manatee, for example, 
dredging, dock and marina construction, coastal development, marine 
events (i.e., high-speed boat races), and underwater and beach 
unexploded ordnance, among others. The Service has developed Antillean 
manatee conservation measures guidelines specific to Puerto Rico. For 
example, we have worked with the U.S. Coast Guard to develop and 
implement standard permit conditions for boat races, such as observer 

South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan, West Indian Manatee

    The South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan, West Indian Manatee 
element, was adopted on August 18, 1999, by the Service (USFWS 1999, 
entire). This ecosystem-based recovery plan is intended to recover 
listed species and to restore and maintain the biodiversity of native 
plants and animals in South Florida and is not intended to replace 
existing recovery plans but to enhance recovery efforts (USFWS 1999, p. 
3). Inasmuch as manatees are a component of South Florida ecosystems, 
this plan included species information and recovery tasks from the 
then-current Florida manatee recovery plan, the Service's 1996 Florida 
Manatee Recovery Plan (USFWS 1996, entire). Because the 1996 Florida 
Manatee Recovery Plan was revised in 2001, the South Florida Multi-
Species Recovery Plan, West Indian Manatee element became obsolete. 
However, the 2001 Florida Manatee Recovery Plan includes tasks that 
address manatee conservation throughout this subspecies' range, 
including in South Florida.
    Manatee recovery activities addressed in the south Florida region 
include a Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) Task Force 
that addresses CERP tasks related to manatee conservation, an 
Interagency Task Force for Water Control Structures that minimizes 
manatee deaths associated with water control structures, and efforts to 
protect the manatees' south Florida winter habitat (FWC 2007, pp. 63, 
    The CERP Task Force developed guidelines for manatee protection 
during CERP-related construction activities. The guidelines address 
culvert and water control structure installation, potential thermal 
effects of Aquifer Storage and Recovery wells, potential manatee 
entrapment in canal networks, and in-water construction effects. The 
Task Force evaluated proposed changes to existing canal systems and the 
construction of new structures planned for CERP implementation and 
recommended measures to minimize effects on manatees. The measures have 
been implemented and are in effect (FWC 2007, p. 196).
    Water control structures are mostly found in south Florida and are 
a predominant means for controlling flooding in the region. Water 
control structures primarily include flood gates and navigation locks 
that allow vessel passage through dams and impoundments, such as those 
associated with Lake Okeechobee. Manatees travel through these 
structures and are occasionally killed in crushings and impingements. 
Manatee protection devices have been installed on most structures known 
to have killed manatees, and the number of deaths has been reduced (FWC 
2007, p. 63). For the period 1998-2008, the average annual number of 
structure-related deaths was 6.5 deaths. This number was reduced to 4.2 
deaths per year from 2009-2014 (FWC 2007, pp. 194-195; FWC FWRI Manatee 
Carcass Salvage Database 2015, unpubl. data).

[[Page 1009]]

    Important warm-water wintering sites for manatees in south Florida 
include power plant discharges, springs, and passive warm-water sites 
(sites characterized by warm-water inversions and other features). 
State and Federal rules have been adopted for all power plant 
discharges in south Florida that limit public access during the winter 
(FWC 2007, pp. 235-238; USFWS 2007, pp. 71-79). Coincidentally, a 
majority of the significant power plants used by wintering manatees 
have been repowered and have projected lifespans of about 40 years 
(Laist et al. 2013, p. 10). The loss of a passive warm-water site due 
to restoration activities, the Port of the Islands warm-water basin, is 
being addressed through the construction of an alternate warm-water 
site downstream of the original site (Dryden 2015, pers. comm.).

Florida Manatee Recovery Plan

    We published the current Florida Manatee Recovery Plan on October 
30, 2001 (USFWS 2001). This recovery plan includes four principal 
objectives: (1) Minimize causes of manatee disturbance, harassment, 
injury, and mortality; (2) determine and monitor the status of manatee 
populations; (3) protect, identify, evaluate, and monitor manatee 
habitats; and (4) facilitate manatee recovery through public awareness 
and education. To help achieve these objectives, the plan identifies 
118 recovery implementation tasks. Important tasks include those that 
address the reduction of watercraft collisions and the loss of warm-
water habitat.
    Recovery Objective 1. Minimize causes of manatee disturbance, 
harassment, injury, and mortality. Tasks identified under this 
objective include (1) Conducting reviews of permitted activities; (2) 
minimizing collisions between manatees and watercraft; (3) enforcing 
manatee protection regulations; (4) assessing and minimizing mortality 
caused by large vessels; (5) eliminating water control structure 
deaths; (6) minimizing fisheries and marine debris entanglements; (7) 
rescuing and rehabilitating distressed manatees; and (8) implementing 
strategies to minimize manatee harassment.
    Task 1. Conduct reviews of permitted activities. The Service 
conducts reviews of coastal construction permit applications to 
minimize impacts to manatees and their habitat, reviews high-speed 
marine event permit applications to minimize the effect of 
concentrated, high-speed watercraft events on manatees, and reviews 
National Pollution Elimination Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) 
permits to insure that existing, significant discharges do not 
adversely affect manatees and insure that no new attractant discharges 
are created.
    The State of Florida requires counties to develop manatee 
protection plans (MPPs). These are county-wide plans for the 
development of boat facilities (docks, piers, dry-storage areas, 
marinas, and boat ramps) that specify preferred locations for boat 
facility development based on an evaluation of natural resources, 
manatee protection needs, and recreation and economic demands. MPPs are 
reviewed by FWC and the Service and, when deemed adequate, are used to 
evaluate boat access projects. When proposed projects are consistent 
with MPPs, permitting agencies authorize the construction of facilities 
in waters used by manatees. Currently, all of the original 13 counties 
required to have MPPs have plans, as well as Clay and Levy Counties. 
Flagler and Charlotte Counties are also preparing plans.
    The Service developed programmatic consultation procedures and 
permit conditions for new and expanding watercraft facilities (e.g., 
docks, boat ramps, and marinas) as well as for dredging and other in-
water activities through an effect determination key with the U.S. Army 
Corps of Engineers and State of Florida (the ``Manatee Key'') (recently 
revised in 2013). The Manatee Key ensures that watercraft facility 
locations are consistent with MPP boat facility siting criteria and are 
built consistent with MPP construction conditions. The Service 
concluded that these procedures constitute appropriate and responsible 
steps to avoid and minimize adverse effects to the species and 
contribute to recovery of the species.
    The Service has worked with the U.S. Coast Guard and State agencies 
to develop and implement standard permit conditions for high-speed 
marine event permits. These conditions require that events take place 
at locations and times when few manatees can be found at event 
locations and require event observer programs. Observer programs place 
observers in locations in and around event sites; these observers watch 
for manatees and shut events down when manatees enter event sites.
    The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) issues 
and renews NPDES permits for power plants, desalination plants, 
wastewater treatment plants, and other dischargers that affect 
manatees. The FWC, the Service, and others review these actions. These 
reviews insure that discharges identified as beneficial to manatees 
continue to operate in a way that does not adversely affect manatees 
and seek to modify or eliminate those discharges that adversely affect 
manatees. In particular, these reviews prevent the creation of new 
sources of warm water and drinking water, known manatee attractants.
    Task 2. Minimize collisions between manatees and watercraft. See 
discussion of watercraft collisions under Factor E, below.
    Ongoing efforts to minimize collisions between manatees and 
watercraft include the adoption of manatee protection areas that 
require boat operators to slow down or avoid sensitive manatee use 
areas. By requiring boats to slow down, manatees are better able to 
evade oncoming boats and boat operators are better able to see manatees 
and prevent collisions. Protected areas minimize the take of manatees 
in manatee wintering areas, resting areas, feeding areas, travel 
corridors, and other important manatee use sites. Manatee protection 
areas have been adopted in 26 Florida counties by the State of Florida, 
local communities, and the Service. Manatee protection areas were first 
adopted in the late 1970s, and additional areas continue to be adopted, 
as needed. For example, FWC recently adopted new protection areas in 
western Pinellas County (68C-22.016).
    Task 3. Enforce manatee protection regulations. Service and State 
efforts to reduce the number of watercraft collisions with manatees 
rely on enforced, well-defined, and designated MPAs. Integral to these 
efforts are an adequate number of law enforcement officers to patrol 
and enforce these areas. Federal, State, and local law enforcement 
officers enforce these measures; Federal officers can enforce State 
regulations, and State officers can enforce Federal regulations. 
Officers can only enforce areas that are properly marked by well-
maintained signs and buoys. Maintenance of these markers requires 
significant, continuing funding to ensure the presence of enforceable 
protection areas.
    It is difficult to ascertain the adequacy of enforcement efforts. 
Data concerning dedicated officer hours on the water and numbers of 
citations written are confounding. For example, many dedicated officer 
hours on the water address diverse missions, and it is not possible to 
identify how many of these hours are devoted to manatee enforcement and 
how many hours are dedicated to other missions. Boater compliance 
assessments provide another measure to assess adequacy. Boater 
compliance varies by waterway,

[[Page 1010]]

with some waterways experiencing 85 percent compliance rates and others 
as little as 14 percent (Gorzelany 2013, p. 63). Average boater 
compliance throughout Florida is 54 percent (Shapiro 2001, p. iii). An 
enforcement presence generally ensures a higher compliance rate 
(Gorzelany 2013, p. 34).
    Task 4. Eliminate water control structure deaths. As discussed 
below, entrapment and crushing in water control structures was first 
recognized as a threat to manatees in the 1970s (Odell and Reynolds 
1979, entire), and measures were immediately implemented to address 
manatee mortality. While initial measures were mostly ineffective, 
recent advances in protection/detection technology have nearly 
eliminated this threat to Florida manatees. In 2014, the 5-year average 
for manatee deaths at structures and locks was 4.2 manatee deaths per 
year as opposed to 6.5 manatee deaths per year during the preceding 20 
years (FWC FWRI Manatee Carcass Salvage Database, 2015, unpubl. data).
    Task 5. Minimize fisheries and marine debris entanglements. Fishing 
gear, including both gear in use and discarded gear (i.e., crab traps 
and monofilament fishing line), are a continuing problem for manatees. 
To reduce this threat, a manatee rescue program disentangles manatees, 
derelict-crab-trap removal programs and monofilament recycling programs 
remove gear from the water, and extensive education and outreach 
efforts increase awareness and promote sound gear disposal activities. 
See Factor E for additional information. Because of continued and 
ongoing fishing into the foreseeable future, it is unlikely that this 
threat will be eliminated.
    Task 6. Rescue and rehabilitate distressed manatees. Distressed 
manatees are rescued throughout the southeastern United States. 
Rescuers include the State of Florida, other range States, and numerous 
private organizations. Each year these rescuers assist dozens of 
manatees that present with a variety of stresses. Significant causes of 
distress include watercraft collisions, fishing gear entanglements, 
calf abandonment, and exposure to cold and brevetoxin. Many animals are 
treated and released in the field, and others with significant needs 
are taken to one of three critical care facilities for medical 
treatment. A majority of manatees rescued through this program are 
successfully released back into the wild (USFWS Captive Manatee 
Database, 2015, unpubl. data).
    Task 7. Implement strategies to minimize manatee harassment. See 
discussion of harassment under Factor B, below.
    Federal and State regulations prohibiting harm and harassment 
(including provisioning) are in effect and enforced (see Supplemental 
Document 2 in Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2015-0178). Extensive outreach 
efforts encourage proper viewing practices and include the efforts of 
the Service, tour guides, and others and include various outreach 
materials. In areas with large aggregations of manatees, the Service 
and FWC have designated manatee sanctuaries and no-entry areas where 
waterborne activities known to take manatees are prohibited. When 
commercial manatee viewing activities occur on National Wildlife 
Refuges, businesses are required to obtain permits that restrict their 
activities to prevent harassment from occurring.
    Recovery Objective 2. Determine and monitor the status of manatee 
populations. Tasks identified under this objective include: (1) 
Conducting status reviews; (2) determining life-history parameters, 
population structure, distribution patterns, and population trends; (3) 
evaluating and monitoring causes of mortality and injury; and (4) 
defining factors that affect health, well-being, physiology, and 
ecology. Research projects that support this objective include aerial 
surveys, a carcass salvage program, a photo-identification program, 
telemetry studies and others.
    A USGS-led status and threats analysis for the Florida manatee was 
updated in 2015 (Runge et al. 2015, entire). This effort updates adult 
survival rates, considers the demographic effects of the major threats 
to Florida manatees, and evaluates how those demographic effects 
influence the risk of extinction using the manatee Core Biological 
Model. Adult survival rates were updated through winter 2008-2009 (See 
Table 3); observations during the winter of 2008-2009 were included in 
the data analysis, but 1-2 annual estimates at the end of the time 
series were dropped because of concerns about end of time series bias 
(Runge et al. 2015, p. 8). Although the adult survival rate is less 
than one, in the Atlantic, Northwest, and Upper St. Johns regions, 
growth rates have been demonstrably greater than 1 (positive growth) 
over the recent past (1983-2007). In the Southwest, the growth rate has 
been greater than 1, but if the severe red-tide frequency increases, 
the growth rate could stabilize or begin to decline (Runge et al. 2015, 
p. 7). Although the new rates are higher, there is no evidence of a 
positive trend between the current analysis and the previous rates 
identified in the 2007 5-year review (Runge et al. 2015, 19; USFWS 
2007, p. 65).

                              Table 3--Updated Florida Manatee Adult Survival Rates
                                            [Runge et al. 2015, p. 7]
                             Region                                    Mean       Standard error      Period
Atlantic........................................................           0.967           0.004       1983-2007
Upper St. John's................................................           0.975           0.004       1986-2006
Northwest.......................................................           0.977           0.004       1983-2007
Southwest.......................................................           0.971           0.004       1996-2007

    The analysis forecast the manatee population under different threat 
scenarios using the Manatee Core Biological Model. Data from the 
Manatee Carcass Salvage Program, 2001-2009 (FWC FWRI Manatee Carcass 
Salvage Program 2015, unpub. data) were used to estimate fractions of 
mortality due to each of six known threats: watercraft, water control 
structures, marine debris, cold, red tide, and others (Runge et al. 
2015, p. 4).
    The model expressed the contribution of each threat as it affects 
manatee persistence, by removing them, one at a time, and comparing the 
results to the ``status quo'' scenario. The ``status quo'' represents 
the population status in the continued presence of all of the threats, 
including the threat of the potential loss of warm water in the future 
due to power plant closures and the loss of springs and/or reduction in 
spring flows.
    The threats due to watercraft, water-control structures, and 
entanglement were each ``removed'' by reducing the

[[Page 1011]]

regional mortality of adults and calves by the estimated fractions of 
mortality. The threat due to loss of warm water was removed by assuming 
that the winter warm-water capacity for manatees will remain at current 
levels for the indefinite future. The threat of red tide was removed by 
setting the probability of occurrence of a major red tide event to 
zero; low background levels of red tide mortality that occurs each year 
were already incorporated into the baseline. The various scenarios were 
considered as ``all or nothing;'' either a particular threat was 
present at its current level (and remained at that level indefinitely), 
or it was removed completely. Thus, this comparison provides a measure 
of the relative effect of each threat on the status of the Florida 
manatee population.
    Under the status quo scenario, the statewide manatee population is 
expected to increase slowly, nearly doubling over 50 years, and then 
stabilize as the population reaches statewide carrying capacity. Under 
this scenario, the model predicts that it is unlikely (<2.5 percent 
chance) that the statewide population will fall below 4,000 total 
individuals over the next 100 years, assuming current threats remain 
constant indefinitely (Runge et al. 2015, p. 13).
    Results for each threat scenario (status quo, plus removal of each 
of the five threats, one at a time) were evaluated over different 
timeframes and for different levels of effective population size (or 
its surrogate, adult population size) (Runge et al. 2015, p. 5). This 
analysis was conducted for two ``coastal'' regions of Florida--an East 
Coast (Upper St. Johns River and Atlantic Coast) Region and a Gulf 
Coast (Northwest and Southwest) Region. On the Gulf Coast there is a 
very low probability (0.24 percent) that the effective population size 
could fall below 500 animals under the status quo scenario (Runge et 
al. 2015, p. 14). The major threats here are watercraft-related 
mortality, loss of warm water, and red tide. On the East Coast, the 
probability that the effective population size would fall below 500 
animals is 0.68 percent (Runge et al. 2015, p. 16). Watercraft-related 
mortality is the major threat to this population. The probability that 
the effective population size will fall below 500 animals on either 
coast within 150 years under the status quo scenario is 0.92 percent 
(Runge et al. 2015, p. 16).
    Recovery Objective 3. Protect, identify, evaluate, and monitor 
manatee habitats. Tasks identified under this objective include: (1) 
Protecting, identifying, evaluating, and monitoring existing natural 
and industrial warm-water refuges and investigate alternatives; (2) 
establishing, acquiring, managing, and monitoring regional protected-
area networks and manatee habitat; (3) ensuring that minimum flows and 
levels are established for surface waters to protect resources of 
importance to manatees; and (4) assessing the need to revise critical 
habitat. Important habitats for the Florida manatee include winter 
sources of warm water, forage, drinking water, travel (or migratory) 
corridors, and sheltered areas for resting and calving. The most 
significant of these include winter warm water and winter foraging 
areas. Florida manatees are at the northern limit of the species' range 
and require stable, long-term sources of warm water during cold weather 
and adjacent forage to persist through winter periods. Historically, 
manatees relied on the warm, temperate waters of south Florida and on 
natural warm-water springs scattered throughout their range as buffers 
to the lethal effects of cold winter temperatures. Absent warm water, 
prolonged exposure to cold water temperatures results in debilitation 
and/or death due to ``cold stress syndrome'' (Bossart et al. 2004, p. 
435; Rommel et al. 2002, p. 4). Several spots in this recovery effort 
summary (like in Objective 1 above) show efforts that we are taking to 
protect these sites and continue to implement recovery for the West 
Indian manatee.
    Recovery Objective 4. Facilitate manatee recovery through public 
awareness and education. Tasks include: (1) Developing, evaluating, and 
updating public education and outreach programs and materials; (2) 
coordinating the development of manatee awareness programs and 
materials to support recovery; and (3) developing consistent manatee 
viewing and approach guidelines, utilizing the rescue, rehabilitation, 
and release program to educate the public.
    Manatee conservation relies on significant education and outreach 
efforts. While the Service and State of Florida engage in these 
efforts, many diverse stakeholders also participate in these 
activities. Counties, municipalities, boating organizations, manatee 
advocacy groups, environmental organizations, and others produce and 
distribute outreach materials through a variety of media. An active 
manatee rescue and rehabilitation program displays rehabilitating 
manatees and promotes conservation through display and educational 
    Significant education and outreach efforts include Crystal River 
National Wildlife Refuge's (NWR) manatee kiosks, located at all water 
access facilities in Kings Bay, Florida, and adjoining waters. The 
kiosk panels provide the public with information about manatees and 
guidance addressing manatee viewing activities. The kiosks are 
supported by Refuge-linked web media that provide additional 
information about manatee harassment and user activities (Vicente 2015, 
pers. comm.). SeaWorld Orlando, through its permitted display of 
rehabilitating manatees, reaches out to unprecedented numbers of 
visitors. The display addresses the park's rescue and rehabilitation 
program and informs the public about threats to manatees and what they 
can do to reduce the number of manatees affected by human activities 
(SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, 2015. See: http://seaworld.org/en/animal-info/animal-infobooks/manatee/ manatee/.)

Recovery Plan for the Puerto Rican Population of the West Indian 
(Antillean manatee) (USFWS 1986, entire)

    The 1986 Recovery Plan does not establish quantitative recovery 
criteria to describe a sustainable population of manatees in Puerto 
Rico. It does, however, direct the Service to determine and satisfy the 
recovery criteria that are based on mortality and abundance trends and 
a minimum population size and ensure that adequate habitat protection 
and anti-poaching measures are implemented (USFWS 1986, Executive 
Summary). The Recovery Plan also specifies that delisting should occur 
when the population is large enough to maintain sufficient genetic 
variation to enable it to evolve and respond to natural changes and 
stochastic or catastrophic events. As previously explained, the Service 
has made substantial progress implementing a number of recovery 
actions, and some other actions are in progress.
    In the absence of historic data (previous to the late 1970s) that 
identifies a clear goal for population size, and population parameters 
such as adult survival rates, which have the highest potential effect 
on growth rate (Marsh et al. 2011, p. 255), it is not possible to 
stipulate with precision the population size and vital rates that 
should characterize a recovered, self-sustaining population of manatees 
in Puerto Rico. Hunter et al. (2012, p. 1631) describes low genetic 
diversity for the Puerto Rico population of Antillean manatees, and 
cites other authors that suggest at least 50 genetically effective 
breeders (~500 individuals) are needed to prevent inbreeding depression 
for short-term population survival, while other researchers suggest 

[[Page 1012]]

levels in the upper hundreds to thousands to maintain evolutionary 
potential. The average estimate of 532 for the manatee population in 
Puerto Rico, ranging from a minimum of 342 to a maximum of 802 
individuals (Pollock et al. 2013, p. 8), is just within the numbers of 
a viable population mentioned by Hunter et al. (2012, p. 1631). The 
Service still considers the Puerto Rico Antillean manatee population as 
stable, as it did in the previous status assessment (USFWS 2007, p. 
33). Past and current aerial surveys have also served to demonstrate 
the island-wide distribution of the Puerto Rico population, which also 
does not seem to have changed. In the 45 years that have passed since 
the species was listed, it can be said that, according to the 
population numbers and maintenance of the population's island-wide 
distribution, the Puerto Rico manatee population is well represented 
and has shown resilient attributes for long-term persistence in spite 
of past and present natural and anthropogenic threats.
    Major tasks for recovery include reduction of human-caused 
mortality, habitat protection, identification and control of any 
contaminant problems, and research into manatee behavior and 
requirements to direct future management (USFWS 1986, Executive 
Summary). The Service has already identified important manatee habitat 
and will continue to use and pursue new strategies towards manatee 
habitat protection together with the PRDNER. Planned research in the 
near future will focus on manatee health assessment to gain baseline 
information into potential contaminant problems and disease.

Florida Manatee Recovery Plan

    The Florida Manatee Recovery Plan (USFWS 2001, entire) identifies 
criteria for downlisting the Florida subspecies from endangered to 
threatened and criteria for removing the subspecies from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Both downlisting and delisting 
criteria include Listing/Recovery Factor criteria and demographic 
criteria. Criteria can be found in Supplemental Document 1 in Docket 
No. FWS-R4-ES-2015-0178.
    A 2004 review of the demographic criteria noted that these criteria 
are largely redundant and that (1) no population can grow at a fixed 
rate indefinitely as limiting resources will eventually prevent the 
population from continuing to grow at that rate and the population will 
ultimately reach stability; (2) the reproductive criterion is difficult 
to estimate and the modeling results are difficult to interpret; and 
(3) demographic recovery criteria should be linked to statistically 
rigorous field data, as well as to the specific population models that 
are intended for their evaluation. See previous review of demographic 
data in Florida Manatee Recovery Plan Objective 3.

Downlisting Criteria, Listing/Recovery Criterion A

1. Identify Minimum Flow Levels for Important Springs Used by Wintering 
    Minimum spring discharge rates that consider estimated flow rates 
necessary to protect water supply and support overwintering manatees 
have been identified for some springs used by manatees. Minimum flows 
were established at Blue Spring, Fanning Spring, Manatee Spring, the 
Weeki Wachee River system and Weeki Wachee Springs, Homosassa Springs, 
and Chassahowitzka Spring. Florida water management districts have 
scheduled, or are in the process of scheduling, minimum flow 
requirements for the remaining springs. See Table 4. These regulations 
will ensure that adequate flows are met to support manatees. To date, 
minimum flows have been adopted for six springs, and efforts are under 
way to develop flows for two additional springs, including the Crystal 
River springs complex. The status of efforts to establish minimum flows 
for eight remaining springs are unknown.

   Table 4--Projected Timeframes for Establishing Spring Minimum Flows
                    [From water management districts]
             Spring                  proposed  for           Notes
                           EAST COAST, FLORIDA
                      Upper St. Johns River Region
Blue Spring (Volusia County)....  ADOPTED...........
Silver Glen Springs (Marion       UNKNOWN...........  To be initiated in
 County).                                              2016.
DeLeon Springs (Volusia County).  UNKNOWN...........  Initiated in 2014.
Salt Springs (Marion County)....  UNKNOWN...........
Silver Springs (Marion County) *  UNKNOWN...........
                             Atlantic Region
No springs......................  N/A...............
                           WEST COAST, FLORIDA
                            Northwest Region
Crystal River System and Kings    2017..............
 Bay Springs (Citrus County).
Homosassa River Springs (Citrus   ADOPTED...........  Revision due 2019.
Weeki Wachee/Mud/Jenkins Creek    ADOPTED...........
 Springs (Hernando County).
Manatee/Fanning Springs (Dixie    ADOPTED...........
Wakulla/St. Mark's Complex        2021..............
 (Wakulla County).
Ichetucknee Springs Group         UNKNOWN...........  Initiated in 2013.
 (Columbia County).
Chassahowitzka River Springs      ADOPTED...........  Revision due 2019.
 (Citrus County).
Rainbow Spring (Marion County) *  UNKNOWN...........
                            Southwest Region
Warm Mineral Springs (Sarasota    UNKNOWN...........
Spring Bayou/Tarpon Springs       UNKNOWN...........
 (Pasco County).

[[Page 1013]]

Sulphur Springs (Hillsborough     ADOPTED...........
* At present, largely inaccessible to manatees.

2. Protect a Network of Warm-Water Refuges as Manatee Sanctuaries, 
Refuges, or Safe Havens
    A network of warm-water sanctuaries/no-entry areas and refuges 
exists throughout much of the Florida manatee's range. Along the 
Atlantic Coast, all four of the primary power plant discharges have 
been designated as manatee protection areas and many lesser warm-water 
sites, such as the Coral Gables Waterway, are protected as well. In the 
St. Johns River region, Blue Springs is in public ownership, and the 
spring and run are protected. The four primary west Florida power 
plants are designated as sanctuaries/no-entry areas, and significant 
warm-water springs in Citrus County are designated as sanctuaries. 
Efforts are ongoing to improve conditions and management of southwest 
Florida's Warm Mineral Springs. See Supplemental Document 2 in Docket 
No. FWS-R4-ES-2015-0178.
3. Identify Foraging Sites Associated With the Network of Warm-Water 
Sites for Protection (Addressed Below)
4. Identify for Protection a Network of Migratory Corridors, Feeding 
Areas, and Calving and Nursing Areas
    Extensive research, including aerial surveys and field studies of 
tagged manatees, has identified many of the foraging sites associated 
with the Florida manatee's warm-water network, as well as migratory 
corridors, resting areas, and calving and nursery areas. In many of 
these areas, manatee protection area measures are in place to protect 
manatees from watercraft collisions. State and Federal laws afford some 
protection against habitat loss in these areas (see Factor D discussion 
below). For example, the Clean Water Act insures that discharges into 
waterways used by manatees are not detrimental to grass beds and other 
habitat features used by manatees.

Downlisting Criteria, Listing/Recovery Criterion B

1. Address Harassment at Wintering and Other Sites to Achieve 
Compliance With the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Act and 
as a Conservation Benefit to the Species
    To address harassment at wintering and other sites, the Service and 
State have designated manatee sanctuaries and no-entry areas to keep 
people out of sensitive wintering sites. Federal, State, and local law 
enforcement officers enforce these restrictions and address any 
violations that occur outside of the protected areas.
    Kings Bay, located in Crystal River, Florida, is a world-renowned 
destination for manatee viewing activities. Commercial viewing 
activities began in the early 1970s, and today's activities generate 
millions in income to the region. Harassment associated with this 
activity has been addressed through the purchase of properties of 
sensitive manatee habitat, the designation of manatee sanctuaries and 
protected areas, the creation and operation of the Crystal River NWR in 
1983, extensive outreach activities, and enforcement of regulations 
prohibiting manatee harassment. The Service adopted the Kings Bay 
Manatee Refuge rule in 2012 to expand existing sanctuary boundaries, 
better address manatee harassment occurring off refuge property, and 
minimize watercraft-related deaths in Kings Bay. The rule identifies 
specific prohibitions that can be enforced through the issuance of 
citations (USFWS 2012). Crystal River NWR recently adopted measures to 
help prevent any harassment in Three Sisters Springs and is considering 
further measures as the situation requires.

Downlisting Criteria, Listing/Recovery Criterion C

    At the time the recovery plan was developed, there was no data 
indicating that this was a limiting factor, thus no reclassification 
(downlisting) criteria was deemed necessary, therefore, no delisting 
criteria were established.

Downlisting Criteria, Listing/Recovery Criterion D

    Specific actions are needed to ensure the adequacy of existing 
regulatory mechanisms.
1. Establish Minimum Flows Consistent With Listing/Recovery Criterion A
    See discussion under Listing/Recovery Criterion A, above.
2. Protect Important Manatee Habitats
    Important manatee habitats have been identified and protected 
through a variety of means. Manatee habitat is protected through land 
acquisition and various Federal and State laws. Important acquisitions 
include Blue Spring in Volusia County and the Main Spring, Three 
Sisters Springs, and Homosassa Springs in Citrus County. Land managers 
for these sites manage habitat to benefit manatees. To insure that 
these habitats and habitat in public waterways are protected, 
regulatory agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers, the Florida 
Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), State water management 
districts, and others review permit applications for activities that 
could adversely modify or destroy habitat and require permittees to 
avoid or minimize impacts. Discharges and runoff that could affect 
habitat are addressed through the Clean Water Act's NPDES permitting 
program, administered by FDEP with oversight from the EPA.
3. Reduce or Remove Unauthorized Take
    To address harassment at wintering and other sites, the Service and 
State have designated manatee sanctuaries and no-entry areas to keep 
people out of sensitive wintering sites. Federal, State, and local law 
enforcement officers enforce these restrictions and address any 
violations that occur outside of the protected areas.

Downlisting Criteria, Listing/Recovery Criterion E

1. Create and Enforce Manatee Safe Havens and/or Federal Manatee 
    To date, the Service and State have created more than 50 manatee 
protection areas, and protection area

[[Page 1014]]

measures are enforced by the Service, U.S. Coast Guard, FWC, and local 
law enforcement officers.
2. Retrofit One Half of All Water Control Structures With Devices To 
Prevent Manatee Mortality
    Water control structures are flood gates that control water 
movement and navigation locks that allow vessel passages through dams 
and impoundments, such as those associated with Lake Okeechobee. 
Manatees travel through these structures and are occasionally killed 
when structures are closed or opened. Manatee protection devices 
installed on these structures prevent manatee deaths. See discussion in 
``South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan, West Indian Manatee.''
    To date, all but one water control structure has been retrofitted 
with manatee protection devices. Efforts are ongoing to complete 
installation at the remaining site. This action has significantly 
reduced the impacts of control structure related manatee injury and 
death; such injuries or deaths are now relatively rare.
3. Draft Guidelines To Reduce or Remove Threats of Injury or Mortality 
From Fishery Entanglements and Entrapment in Storm Water Pipes and 
    Some measures have been developed to reduce or remove threats of 
injury or mortality from fishery entanglements, and steps are being 
taken to minimize entrapments in storm water pipes and structures. 
Measures to address fishery entanglements include monofilament 
recycling programs and derelict crab trap removals; these two programs 
address primary sources of manatee entanglement. Storm water pipes and 
structures large enough for manatees to enter are designed to include 
features that prohibit manatee access. Existing structures are re-
fitted with bars or grates to keep manatees out. In the event of 
entanglements or entrapments, the manatee rescue program intervenes. 
There are very few serious injuries or deaths each year due to these 
causes. Guidelines to minimize gear-related entanglements associated 
with netting activities have been developed. Similarly, guidance has 
been developed to reduce entrapment in storm water pipes and 
structures. See Factor E for additional information.
    Remaining tasks needed to recover Florida manatees include:
     Continue to address pending changes in the manatees' warm-
water network (develop and implement strategies).
     Support the adoption of minimum flow regulations for 
remaining important springs used by manatees.
     Protect and maintain important manatee habitat.
     Continue to maintain, adopt, and enforce manatee 
protection areas as appropriate (continue to fund law enforcement 
activities and manatee protection area marker maintenance).
     Continue to address instances of manatee harassment.
     Continue to review and address warm- and freshwater 
discharges and boat facility projects that affect manatees.
     Maintain and install manatee protection devices on 
existing and new water-control structures.
     Continue manatee rescue and rehabilitation efforts, 
including efforts to minimize the effect of manatee entanglements and 
     Continue to monitor manatee population status and trends.
     Continue manatee education and outreach efforts.
    The Florida manatee population, estimated at about 6,350 manatees, 
is characterized by good adult survival rate estimates and positive 
breeding rates. The recently updated threats analysis continues to 
identify losses due to watercraft and projected losses of winter warm-
water habitat as the greatest threats to this subspecies. The 
designation, marking, and enforcement of manatee protection areas in 
areas where manatees are at risk of watercraft collision, in addition 
to outreach efforts focused on minimizing this threat, addresses this 
concern. Numerous efforts have been made and are ongoing to protect and 
enhance natural warm-water sites used by wintering manatees. Addressing 
the pending loss of warm water habitat from power plant discharges 
remains a priority activity needed to achieve recovery.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 
424) set forth the procedures for listing, reclassifying, or removing a 
species from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
and Plants.
    A species may be determined to be an endangered or threatened 
species due to one or more of the five factors described in section 
4(a)(1) of the Act: (A) The present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its continued existence. We must consider these same five 
factors in reclassifying or delisting a species.
    The following analysis examines all five factors currently 
affecting or that are likely to affect the West Indian manatee.

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    West Indian manatees are found in coastal and riverine systems from 
the southeastern United States to northeastern Brazil, including 
freshwater, brackish, and marine habitats. Submerged, emergent, and 
floating vegetation is their preferred food. Important habitat 
components include foraging areas, freshwater sources, travel 
corridors, sheltered areas, and, in the southeastern United States, 
sources of warm water for wintering. Degradation and loss of manatee 
habitat occurs throughout (UNEP 2010, p. 12). Although the immediacy 
and the magnitude of this factor varies throughout the species' range, 
available manatee foraging habitat does not seem to be a limiting 
factor in most of the range countries, including Florida and Puerto 
Rico (Orth et al. 2006, p. 994; Drew et al. 2012, p. 13; Lefebvre et 
al. 2001, entire; UNEP 2010, entire). Still, manatee habitat 
degradation and loss remains a threat in most countries, and ongoing 
efforts to address these threats remains a recovery priority 
(Castelblanco et al. 2012, p. 142).
    Some countries have been able to document manatee habitat loss 
effects, while other countries do not have site-specific information 
available to quantify the severity and/or frequency of this threat on 
manatees. For example, in Mexico, loss of manatees from certain areas 
has been attributed to, among other factors, the construction of a dam 
along a river (Colmenero-Rol[oacute]n and Hoz-Zavala 1986, in UNEP 
2010, p. 59), while significant manatee habitat modification has 
affected the number of animals along the coast of Veracruz (Serrano et 
al. 2007, p. 109). Other important manatee habitat in Belize such as 
Turneffe atoll is also affected by unsustainable fishing, mangrove 
clearing, overdevelopment, and dredging (Edwards 2012, p. 72).
    In Honduras, manatee abundance declined, in part, because of 
habitat degradation (Cerrato 1993, in Lefebvre et al. 2001, p. 440), 
while in Costa Rica, habitat modification activities such as logging 
and agriculture have increased sedimentation in rivers and lagoons, 
making it difficult for manatees to

[[Page 1015]]

access suitable habitat in the Tortuguero River system (Smethurst and 
Nietschmann 1999, in Lefebvre et al. 2001, p. 442). In Panama, manatee 
distribution is apparently fragmented by discontinuous and likely 
depleted habitat (Lefebvre et al. 2001, p. 442).
    Although threats continue, there are positive recovery efforts 
being made for the West Indian manatee to protect against threats posed 
by habitat loss or modification in many range countries and in the 
areas of U.S. jurisdiction. In Belize, three protected areas were 
created specifically to protect critical manatee habitat, and more than 
43 percent of the country's protected areas are within the coastal zone 
(UNEP 2010, p. 24). Mexico has designated significant special manatee 
protection areas (UNEP 2010, p. 60), and Trinidad protected the Nariva 
Swamp, the most important manatee habitat in that country (UNEP 2010, 
p. 77). Although most countries within the species' range outside the 
United States continue to provide suitable manatee habitat, habitat 
degradation and loss remains a threat requiring ongoing recovery 
    In Puerto Rico and the southeastern United States, threats to 
manatee habitat are well documented. The Service's 2007 5-year review 
identified specific threats including: Loss of seagrass due to marine 
construction activities (extent unknown), propeller scarring and 
anchoring (magnitude unknown), and oil spills; loss of freshwater due 
to damming and competing uses; and increasing coastal commercial and 
recreational activities (USFWS 2007, pp. 30-31). Human activities that 
result in the loss of seagrass include dredging, fishing, anchoring, 
eutrophication, siltation, and coastal development (Duarte 2002, p. 
194; Orth et al. 2006, p. 991; PRDNER 2008, entire; PRDNER 2012, 
    In the Service's 2007 5-year review, overall impacts to manatee 
habitat had not been quantitatively assessed in Puerto Rico. At that 
time, the Service did not believe there were significant threats to 
seagrass habitat and noted that the potential loss of fresh water 
sources may be the most limiting of the manatee habitat variables in 
the future. However, the 5-year review identified other habitat threats 
as identified in the previous paragraph. All of these threats still 
remain, in varying degrees and immediacy. For example, oil spills may 
always be considered a non-imminent threat to the manatee and its 
habitat. The Service forms part of the Caribbean Regional Response 
Team, who are responsible for preparedness activities including 
planning, training, and exercising to ensure an effective response to 
releases of hazardous substances and oil spills. The Service developed 
a manatee specific response plan as part of the Puerto Rico and USVI 
Area Contingency Plan (http://ocean.floridamarine.org/ACP/SJACP/Documents.html), including a manatee specific response plan.
    Since the 2007 5-year review, habitat effects including threats to 
seagrass habitat have been quantitatively assessed. The PRDNER has been 
gathering new relevant information documented in its two reports 
entitled Evaluation of Recreational Boating Anchor Damage on Coral 
Reefs and Seagrass Beds (PRDNER 2008, entire; PRDNER 2012, entire). The 
report identified the east, south, and west coasts of the island as the 
areas with major impacts on seagrass beds caused by vessel propellers, 
indiscriminate anchorage, and poor navigation skills. According to the 
reports, the areas with major impacts of severe magnitude were those on 
the south-central coast, including high manatee use areas in the 
municipalities of Guayama, Salinas and Guayanilla, among others. The 
PRDNER (2008, 2012, p. 6) also describes that seagrasses are being 
severely impacted by both the scarring actions of motor boat propellers 
and the scouring action of jet ski traffic in shallow waters. In 
addition, small to mid-size boat owners prefer to visit near-shore 
areas, which have contributed to the decrease in seagrass density and 
an increment in the fragmentation of this habitat (PRDNER 2008, 2012, 
p. 7).
    Although anthropogenic activities that result in the loss of 
seagrass such as dredging, anchoring, effects from coastal development, 
propeller scarring, boat groundings, and inappropriate recreational 
activities occur in Puerto Rico, seagrass abundance is not considered a 
limiting factor for the current Antillean manatee population of the 
Island (Drew et al. 2012, p. 13). It would be expected that a 
significant decrease of this resource could cause stress to the manatee 
population. However, no data is available to support estimates of how 
much seagrass is needed to sustain a larger manatee population (Bonde 
et al. 2004, p. 258). Based on the present availability of seagrass 
habitat in Puerto Rico, the Service believes the severity of the threat 
of degraded and or decreased seagrass habitat is low.
    To offset these threats in Puerto Rico, a wide range of 
conservation efforts are ongoing (see Recovery discussion above). These 
include the collective efforts of the Service, the U.S. Army Corps of 
Engineers, PRDNER, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
(NOAA), the U.S. Coast Guard, and others working to avoid, minimize, 
and mitigate project impacts on manatee habitat. The development and 
implementation of no-wake areas, marked navigation channels, boat 
exclusion areas, and standardized construction conditions for marinas 
and boat ramps are a few of the efforts making a positive impact on 
maintaining and protecting important manatee habitat (see Recovery 
    Manatees require sources of fresh water for daily drinking and do 
not appear to exhibit a preference for natural over anthropogenic 
freshwater resources (Slone et al. 2006, p. 3). Sources of freshwater 
are currently not considered limiting in Puerto Rico and include the 
mouths of streams and rivers, coastal groundwater springs, and even 
industrial wastewater outflows (e.g., wastewater treatment plants, 
hydroelectric power plants). At this time, the lack and/or degradation 
of fresh water is considered a low-level threat in Puerto Rico. There 
is no indication that manatees are being affected by a lack of 
freshwater sources, even during the 2015 severe drought and especially 
since it is possible for manatees to drink from several sources. On the 
other hand, the potential impact of poor water quality on the manatee 
population is unknown. In the same way as for other habitat threats, 
the Service will continue to assess and work with others towards 
maintenance and potential enhancement of manatee freshwater drinking 
    Within the southeastern United States, the potential loss of warm 
water at power plants and natural, warm-water springs used by wintering 
manatees is identified as a significant threat (USFWS 2007, entire; 
Laist and Reynolds 2005 a, b, entire, and (USFWS 2001, entire). Natural 
springs are threatened by potential reductions in flow and water 
quality (due to unsustainable water withdrawals combined with severe 
droughts) and by factors such as siltation, disturbance caused by 
recreational activities, and others that affect manatee access and use 
of the springs (Florida Springs Task Force 2000, p. 13). Power plants, 
which provide winter refuges for a majority of the Florida manatee 
population, are not permanent reliable sources of warm water. In the 
past, some industrial sources of warm water have been eliminated due to 
plant obsolescence, environmental permitting requirements, economic 
pressures, and other factors (USFWS 2000, entire). Experience with 
disruptions at some sites has shown that some manatees can adapt to 

[[Page 1016]]

changes at these sites; during temporary power plant shutdowns, 
manatees have been observed to use less preferred nearby sites. In 
other cases, manatees have died when thermal discharges have been 
eliminated due to behavioral persistence or site fidelity (USFWS 2000, 
    The current network of power plant sites will likely endure for 
another 40 years or so (Laist et al. 2013, p. 9). We do not know for 
sure if the plants will be replaced or eliminated at the end of this 
time, but the likelihood is that the power plants will close (Laist and 
Reynolds 2005b, p. 281). We also do not know exactly how manatees would 
respond if some sites are lost, since past modifications or changes to 
power plant sites have resulted in variable response from manatees. If 
power plant outflows are lost, manatees would rely on remaining springs 
in the upper St. Johns River and northwest Florida regions and on Warm 
Mineral Springs in southwest Florida, passive thermal basins, and warm 
ambient waters in southernmost Florida. The loss of certain warm-water 
sites potentially could cause a change in Atlantic coast abundance and 
distribution because there are no natural springs on the Atlantic coast 
north of the St. John's River (Laist and Reynolds 2005b, p. 287).
    Florida's springs have seen drastic declines in flows and water 
quality and many springs have been altered (dammed, silted in, and 
otherwise obstructed) to the point that they are no longer accessible 
to manatees (Taylor 2006, pp. 5-6; Laist and Reynolds 2005b, p. 287; 
Florida Springs Task Force 2001, p. 4). Flow declines are largely 
attributable to demands on aquifers (spring recharge areas) for potable 
water used for drinking, irrigation, and other uses (Marella 2014, pp. 
1-2). Declining flows provide less usable water for wintering manatees. 
Declines in water quality (e.g., increased nitrates) can promote the 
growth of undesirable alga, such as Lyngbya sp., which can cover and 
smother food plants used by wintering manatees (Florida Springs Task 
Force 2001, pp. 12, 26). Notable springs largely inaccessible to 
manatees due to damming include springs in the Ocklawaha and 
Withlacoochee river systems. Springs that have silted in include 
Manatee and Fanning springs, Warm Mineral Spring, Weeki Wachee Spring, 
and others (Taylor 2006, pp. 5, 8).
    In the case of Manatee, Fanning, and Weeki Wachee springs, 
restoration efforts have removed sand bars and other obstructions, 
making these sites once again accessible to manatees (The Nature 
Conservancy 2015). See: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/florida/howwework/saving-manatees-through-springs-restoration.xml. Also, Marella (2014, p. 1) noted declining 
demands on central Florida aquifers due to increased rainfall, 
declining agricultural demands, use of re-use water, and other water 
conservation measures, suggesting that spring flows used by manatees 
can be maintained. Chapter 62-42, Florida Administrative Code, requires 
that minimum flow levels be set for Florida waterbodies. Set flow 
levels require that measures be taken should flows drop below 
statutorily adopted levels, thus insuring adequate flows. Minimum flows 
have been set for six springs that are important to wintering manatees. 
Flow levels must be identified for the Crystal River springs complex 
and other important springs.
    In the southeastern United States, a wide range of conservation 
efforts identified in the 2007 5-year Review are continuing (USFWS 
2007, pp. 17-18; see also Recovery discussion above). Service efforts 
in cooperation and coordination with State and industry partners are 
ongoing to minimize any future manatee losses from industrial site 
reductions or closures by seeking short-term alternatives and long-term 
sustainable options for supporting manatees without the reliance on 
industrial warm-water sources. Spring studies and on-the-ground 
restorations seek to restore flows and access to existing natural 
springs. Habitat degradation and loss from natural and human-related 
causes are being addressed through collective efforts to improve 
overall water quality, minimize construction-related impacts, and 
minimize loss of seagrass due to prop scarring. Efforts to replant 
areas devoid of seagrass are showing success in restoring lost manatee 
foraging habitat.
    Summary: Based on the wide extent and combined threats discussed 
above, the Service considers activities identified under Factor A to be 
a moderate threat to the species. While there have been substantial 
improvements towards addressing habitat threats since listing, these 
activities still threaten the West Indian manatee but not to the 
magnitude that places the species in danger of extinction, especially 
given the availability of suitable habitat throughout the species' 
range. If this downlisting rule is finalized, we will continue to 
evaluate projects with a Federal nexus in areas of U.S. jurisdiction 
(Puerto Rico and areas of the continental United States) to benefit 
habitat for the West Indian manatee and make recommendations to avoid 
and minimize impacts to manatee habitat. For West Indian manatees in 
the continental United States, ensuring the continued availability of 
warm-water refugia sites is a critical need related to this factor.
    We describe above (and in supplemental documents) progress with 
local, county, city, and State partners to maintain minimum flows and 
restore habitat at sites where we believe it will help address this 
habitat need for the species. For areas outside U.S. jurisdiction, we 
have documented examples of habitat destruction, modification, and 
fragmentation that have impacted West Indian manatees, by damming 
rivers and destroying estuaries. There are also a number of positive 
examples of manatee protection areas that will continue to provide 
long-term suitable manatee habitat. The Service, in coordination with 
its International Affairs Program, will continue to enhance 
international relations in order to promote, and work together with 
other countries towards, manatee habitat conservation.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    Throughout the range of the species, manatees are used for a 
variety of purposes. Outside the United States, manatees have been 
hunted and are poached to supply meat and other commodities. 
Recreationally, people seek out opportunities to view manatees through 
commercial ecotour operators or on their own. There are numerous 
scientific studies being conducted of captive and wild manatees, 
including studies of specimens salvaged from carcasses. The public is 
educated about manatees through a variety of media, such as videos and 
photographs, including rehabilitating manatees in captivity.
    Poaching remains a major threat to the manatee population outside 
of the southeastern United States (Marsh et al. 2011, p. 265) and has 
been responsible for past declining numbers throughout much of the 
Antillean subspecies' range (Thornback and Jenkins 1982, in Lefebvre et 
al. 2001, p. 426) (in 17 of 20 range countries). For example, in 
Guadeloupe (French Antilles), the local manatee population was hunted 
to extinction by the early 1900s (Marsh et al. 2011, p. 429). In 
Honduras, manatees are still actively poached on an opportunistic basis 
in La Mosquita (Gonz[aacute]lez-Socoloske et al. 2011, p. 129). Manatee 
meat is a highly prized source of protein in some local markets in 
Central America, bringing up to $100

[[Page 1017]]

per pound (Jim[eacute]nez 2002, Quintana-Rizzo 1993: in UNEP 2010, p. 
12). Depending on certain social and economic factors, current poaching 
rates in northern Nicaragua vary from year to year (Self-Sullivan and 
Mignucci-Giannoni 2012, p. 44). Other manatee products include oil, 
bones, and hide (Lefebvre et al. 2001, p. 426; Marsh et al. 2011, p. 
264; Self-Sullivan and Mignucci-Giannoni 2012, pp. 42-45).
    Manatees are particularly susceptible to overexploitation because 
of their low reproductive rates (Lefebvre et al. 2001, p. 12). 
Accordingly, poaching poses a serious threat to some manatee 
populations, especially in those areas where few manatees remain. 
Currently, poaching is hypothesized no longer to occur in a few 
regions, has been reduced in others, and is still common in others 
(UNEP 2010, entire; Marsh et al. 2011, p. 386). For example, although 
manatee poaching in Colombia still occurs in specific areas and seasons 
(Castelblanco-Mart[iacute]nez 2009, p. 239), it is much less common 
today than in the past (UNEP 2010, p. 30). It is also no longer 
believed to be a threat in Belize. Marsh (2011, p. 269) identifies 
poaching as a major threat to manatees in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, 
Cuba, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, 
Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. It is no longer a threat 
in the mainland United States and Puerto Rico (Marsh 2011, p. 269). 
Poaching has not been observed in Puerto Rico since 1995. We continue 
to pursue initiatives with other countries that encourage a ban on 
poaching and hunting of manatees. Foreign governments have instituted 
regulations to address this threat (see Factor D).
    Manatee viewing by commercial tour operators and private citizens 
occurs in the southeastern United States, Belize, Mexico, and, based on 
anecdotal accounts, possibly in Puerto Rico. People view manatees from 
the water; from boats, kayaks, and canoes; and from shoreline areas. 
These actions may disrupt manatee behaviors and cause them to leave 
important habitats. Large numbers of people may crowd manatees and also 
cause them to leave resting, calving or feeding sites.
    In the southeastern United States and other areas where people view 
manatees, numerous measures are in place to prevent the take of 
manatees due to disturbance of viewing-related harassment. Well-
enforced sanctuaries keep people out of sensitive manatee habitats 
(i.e., warm-water sites), educated tour guides insure that their 
customers do not harass manatees, and many educational programs 
prescribe appropriate measures to take when in the presence of 
manatees. For example, in 1992, manatees stopped visiting suitable 
manatee habitat (Swallow Caye, Belize) after swim-with-the-manatee 
programs were allowed without proper control (Auil 1998, p. 12). 
Community groups and a local conservation organization helped to 
declare the area a wildlife sanctuary in 2002. The area is currently 
co-managed between the Belize Forest Department and a local 
conservation organization (UNEP 2010, p. 23), and manatees have 
returned to the area.
    In Puerto Rico, harassment of manatees by kayak users and swimmers 
has been reported in several popular beach and coastal recreational 
areas. In addition, harassment related to speedboat races in manatee 
areas has increased. In 2014 alone, the Service reviewed 12 permit 
applications for speed boat races in Puerto Rico, several of them in 
areas with high concentrations of manatees. However, to date there have 
been no reported injuries or deaths of manatees caused by speedboat 
races. Consultation with the Service under Section 7 of the Act has 
served to implement specific conservation measures during marine events 
such as boat races (see Recovery and Available Conservation Measures 
sections). The U.S. Coast Guard consistently consults with the Service 
on marine event applications and readily includes manatee conservation 
measures when applicable. In addition, government agencies and local 
nongovernmental organizations have implemented education and outreach 
strategies to insure that manatee harassment is avoided and minimized.
    Education and research programs involving manatees are designed to 
insure that manatees are neither adversely affected nor overutilized. 
Examples include outreach efforts used to minimize manatee harassment 
in Crystal River, Florida, and the Service's ESA/MMPA marine mammal 
scientific research permitting program, which limits the effects that 
research activities have on manatees.
    Summary: Based on the information discussed above, overutilization 
is considered a moderate threat to the West Indian manatee, with 
varying frequencies of occurrence from absent to common throughout the 
species' range. This threat is not severe enough to indicate the West 
Indian manatee is in danger of extinction because measures and efforts 
are in place to address concerns and are proving effective in a good 
portion of the West Indian manatee's range. The situation has improved, 
as poaching is not a threat in the southeastern United States 
(including Puerto Rico) and has been reduced in other countries. 
However, it continues to occur in some range countries. We do not 
believe overutilization for research or education purposes is a threat 
at this time.

C. Disease or Predation

    While numerous infectious disease agents and parasites have been 
reported in sirenians, there have been no reports of major West Indian 
manatee mortality events caused by disease or parasites (Marsh et al. 
2011, p. 294).
    Disease-related deaths are known to occur in West Indian manatees. 
Recent cases of toxoplasmosis are a concern in Puerto Rico (Bossart et 
al. 2012, p. 139). However, until additional studies are concluded, the 
severity of this threat is unknown.
    Marsh et al. (2011, p. 294) stated that the importance of disease 
as a threat to the manatee is unknown. In spite of concerns about the 
manatee's ability to rebound from a population crash should an 
epizootic event occur, the impact of disease on population viability 
remains unknown (Sulzner et al. 2012, p. 1). Marsh et al. 2011 (p. 294) 
speculated that the Florida subspecies appears to have a robust immune 
system that safeguards them from significant disease outbreaks. We 
suspect this to be also true for the Antillean subspecies because we 
have no documented disease outbreaks.
    Mou Sue et al. (1990) described rare attacks by sharks on manatees 
in Panama (p. 239). Reported instances of sharks and alligators feeding 
on manatees are extremely rare (Marsh et al. 2011, p. 239).
    Summary: Based on the above information, disease and predation are 
not considered to be a threat to the West Indian manatee at this time.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Regulatory mechanisms are in place throughout the West Indian 
manatee's range. These include, but are not limited to, specific laws 
and regulations that prohibit specific and general human activities 
that impact manatees and their habitat, and the establishment of long-
term conservation protection measures at key locations throughout the 
range. In the United States, Florida county MPPs ensure consistent and 
effective protection throughout the State. Although regulatory 
mechanisms should be effective and consistent in all countries where 
manatees are found, the extent and overall effectiveness of these 
regulatory mechanisms varies widely from country to country. Despite 
this variability, our assessment of the best

[[Page 1018]]

available information leads us to believe these efforts are having an 
overall positive impact on manatee recovery and conservation. However, 
enforcement and compliance with these measures, as well as the need for 
additional efforts in some countries, continues to be a concern and 
will require additional cooperative efforts into the foreseeable 
    Outside the United States, West Indian manatees are protected in 
most countries by a combination of national and international treaties 
and agreements as listed in Table 4 in UNEP (2010, p. 14), in Lefebvre 
et al. (2001, entire), and Table 4.2 in Self-Sullivan and Mignucci-
Giannoni (2012, p. 41). See Supplemental Document 3 in Docket No. FWS-
R4-ES-2015-0178. Countries within the range of the Antillean manatee 
protect the manatee by national legislation (UNEP 2010, Table 4). For 
example, in The Bahamas, manatees are protected under the Wild Animals 
Protection Act (Chapter 248, 21 of 1968 E.L.A.O. 1974), which prohibits 
the taking or capture of any wild animal (Government of The Bahamas 
2004). In 2005, the Bahamian Government also created the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act (No. 12), which monitors and regulates human 
interactions with marine mammals. The Act prohibits taking, selling, or 
harassing any marine mammal (The Government of The Bahamas 2006). As 
another example, the Manatee Protection Ordinance (1933-1936) provided 
the first protective legislation for the species in Belize. In 1981, 
manatees in Belize were included as an endangered species in the 
Wildlife Protection Act No. 4 of the Forest Department. The Act 
prohibits the killing, taking, or molesting of manatees, as well as 
possession and sale of any part of any manatee (Auil 1998, pp. 29-30).
    The West Indian manatee is listed in Appendix I of the Convention 
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 
(CITES). CITES (see www.cites.org) is an international agreement 
through which member countries work together to protect against over-
exploitation of animal and plant species found in international trade. 
Commercial trade in wild-caught specimens of these Appendix 1 species 
is illegal (permitted only in exceptional licensed circumstances). The 
Service reviewed the CITES trade database for the West Indian manatee, 
which currently has information from 1977 to 2013, and found that trade 
does not pose a threat to the West Indian manatee at this time. The 
manatee and its habitat are also protected by the Cartagena Convention 
Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife for the 
protection and development of the marine environment of the Wider 
Caribbean Region (SPAW Protocol). The SPAW Protocol, approved in 1990, 
prohibits the possession, taking, killing, and commercial trade of any 
sirenian species (UNEP 2010, p. 14). It stresses the importance of 
establishing regional cooperation to protect and, as appropriate, to 
restore and improve the state of ecosystems, as well as threatened and 
endangered species and their habitats in the Wider Caribbean Region. 
The manatee is listed in Annex II of the SPAW Protocol. Annex II 
includes threatened or endangered animal species for which, again, any 
form of destructions or disruption (capture, possession, killing, 
trade, etc.) must be banned for their protection and recovery.
    Although manatees outside of the southeastern United States are 
legally protected by these and other mechanisms, full implementation of 
these international and local laws is lacking, especially given limited 
funding and understaffed law enforcement agencies (UNEP 2010, p. 89).
    Marsh et al. (2011, p. 387) indicated that enforcement remains a 
critical issue for West Indian manatees. Outside the United States, 
mechanisms are needed to allow existing West Indian manatee protection 
laws to work as intended. Despite all of the existing regulations for 
manatees, illegal poaching and destruction of habitat continue (Self-
Sullivan and Mignucci-Giannoni 2012, p. 41). Enforcement of 
conservation policies varies in different coastal regions; in some 
regions, poaching is common and in areas with a government presence, 
enforcement efforts are thought to be significant (Self-Sullivan and 
Mignucci-Giannoni 2012, p. 45). Poaching occurs in areas where the 
presence of enforcement personnel is rare (UNEP 2010, p. 64). However, 
in other areas, like Costa Rica, it does not appear to be significant 
(UNEP 2010, p. 34). Although we cannot enforce Federal regulations in 
areas outside of U.S. jurisdiction, we continue to cooperate with other 
countries' governments under section 8 of the Act, as well as CITES and 
other international agreements.
    In the southeastern United States, in addition to being listed as 
an endangered species, the West Indian manatee is further considered a 
depleted stock under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (see greater 
detail just below; MMPA, 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.; Previous Federal 
Actions section, and Supplemental Document 2 in Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-
2015-0178), as well as the Clean Water Act and the Fish and Wildlife 
Coordination Act. The MMPA was enacted in 1972 in response to growing 
concerns among scientists and the public that certain species and 
populations of marine mammals, including the West Indian manatee, were 
in danger of extinction or depletion as a result of human activities.
    The goal of the MMPA is to protect and conserve marine mammals so 
that they continue to be significant functioning elements of the 
ecosystem of which they are a part. The MMPA includes a general 
moratorium on the taking and importation of marine mammals and their 
products, with some exemptions (e.g., Alaska Native subsistence 
purposes) and exceptions to the prohibitions (e.g., for scientific 
research, enhancement of the species, and unintentional incidental take 
coincident with conducting lawful activities).
    ``Take'' is defined under the MMPA as ``harass, hunt, capture, or 
kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture or kill.'' The term 
``harassment'' means ``any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which 
has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in 
the wild'' (Level A harassment), or ``has the potential to disturb a 
marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption 
of behavioral patterns, including but not limited to, migration, 
breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering'' (Level B 
    By definition under the MMPA, any marine mammal species or 
population stock that is listed as an endangered or a threatened 
species under the Act is considered ``depleted'' and managed as such 
under the MMPA. Furthermore, a marine mammal stock that is listed under 
the Act is considered a ``strategic stock'' for purposes of commercial 
fishery considerations. Neither of these categorizations would change 
with the potential downlisting of the West Indian manatee from 
endangered to threatened. Both the Florida and Puerto Rico stocks will 
remain depleted and strategic under the MMPA.
    Several additional prohibitions are provided in section 102 of the 
MMPA, including take of any marine mammal on the high seas; possession 
of a marine mammal or any product of that marine mammal taken in 
violation of the MMPA; transport, purchase, sell, export, or offer to 
purchase, sell, or export any marine mammal or marine mammal product 
that is taken in violation of the MMPA or for any purpose other than 
public display, scientific research, or

[[Page 1019]]

enhancing the survival of a species or stock; and import of illegally 
taken marine mammals and marine mammal products. Section 102 further 
prohibits the import of any marine mammal if the mammal was taken from 
a depleted species or population stock except under a permit for 
scientific research or for enhancing the survival or recovery of a 
species or stock.
    U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity other than 
commercial fishing (which is specifically and separately addressed 
under the MMPA) within a specified geographical region may petition the 
Secretary of the Interior to authorize the incidental, but not 
intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals within that 
region for a period of not more than 5 consecutive years or, if the 
potential take is limited to harassment, an authorization may be issued 
under an expedited process for up to 1 year. Prior to issuance of 
either authorization, the Secretary must find that the total of such 
taking during the period will have a negligible impact on such species 
or stock and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the 
availability of such species or stock for taking for subsistence uses, 
which only applies to Alaskan Natives as provided under the MMPA.
    Section 104 provides for the issuance of permits to authorize the 
taking or importation of marine mammals for the purpose of scientific 
research, public display (unless the species or stock is considered 
depleted), or enhancement of the species. In addition, photography 
permits may be issued for educational or commercial purposes as long as 
the subject marine mammals are limited to harassment that only has the 
potential to disturb them.
    Section 118 of the MMPA addresses the taking of marine mammals 
incidental to commercial fishing operations. This section, which was 
added to the MMPA in 1994, establishes a framework that authorizes the 
incidental take of marine mammals during commercial fishing activities. 
In addition, this section outlines mechanisms to monitor and reduce the 
level of incidental take. Information from the carcass salvage programs 
indicate that interactions between manatees and commercial fisheries 
may occur within waters of the United States but is not a concern at 
this time.
    Title II of the MMPA established the Marine Mammal Commission 
(Commission), an independent agency of the U.S. Government, to review 
and make recommendations on the marine mammal policies, programs, and 
actions being carried out by Federal regulatory agencies related to 
implementation of the MMPA. The Commission's primary focus and duties 
are the protection and conservation of marine mammals. The Service 
coordinates and works with the Commission in order to provide the best 
management practices for marine mammals.
    Within the southeastern United States (including Puerto Rico), the 
West Indian manatee also receives protection by most State and 
Territorial agencies, and will continue to receive protection if this 
downlisting rule is finalized. In Florida, the manatee is protected by 
the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act (FMSA), which established Florida as 
a sanctuary for manatees. This designation protects manatees from 
injury, disturbance, harassment, and harm in the waters of Florida, and 
provides for the designation and enforcement of manatee protection 
zones. However, Florida statutes state that, ``[w]hen the federal and 
state governments remove the manatee from status as an endangered or 
threatened species, the annual allocation may be reduced'' (FMSA Chap. 
379.2431(2)(u)(4)(c)), suggesting that adequate funding could be 
problematic if downlisting occurs. Florida laws also provide a 
regulatory basis to protect habitat and spring flows (Florida Water 
Resources Act).
    In Georgia, West Indian manatees are listed as endangered under the 
Georgia Wildlife Act of 1973 (O.C.G.A. Sec. Sec.  22-3-130) which 
prohibits the capture, killing, or selling of protected species and 
protects the habitat of these species on public lands. In 1999, the 
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico approved the Law No. 241, known as the New 
Wildlife Law of Puerto Rico (Nueva Ley de Vida Silvestre de Puerto 
Rico). The purpose of this law is to protect, conserve, and enhance 
both native and migratory wildlife species, declare to be the property 
of Puerto Rico all wildlife species within its jurisdiction, and 
regulate permits, hunting activities, and exotic species, among other 
actions. In 2004, the PRDNER approved Regulation 6766 to regulate the 
management of threatened and endangered species in Puerto Rico 
(Reglamento 6766--Reglamento para Regir el Manejo de las Especies 
Vulnerables y en Peligro de Extinci[oacute]n en el Estado Libre 
Asociado de Puerto Rico). In particular, the New Wildlife Law of Puerto 
Rico of 1999 and its regulations provide for severe fines for any 
activities that affect Puerto Rico's endangered species, including the 
Antillean manatee. These laws similarly prohibit the capture, killing, 
take, or selling of protected species.
    Also, the Navigation and Aquatic Safety Law for the Commonwealth of 
Puerto Rico (Law 430) was implemented in year 2000 and allows for the 
designation and enforcement of watercraft speed zones for the 
protection of wildlife and coastal resources. However, in Puerto Rico 
and Florida, despite protections, watercraft collisions continue to be 
a threat to manatees (see Factor E). The PRDNER has indicated that 
current speed regulatory buoys are ineffective, in part because 
regulations do not identify the perimeter or area that each buoy 
regulates (PRDNER 2015, pers. comm.). Thus, emphasis has been given to 
public education and signage in coastal areas to further reduce manatee 
    In addition, there are numerous other manatee protection laws and 
regulations in place in other States within the United States. These 
are detailed in a table entitled ``Existing International, Federal, and 
State Regulatory Mechanisms,'' see ``Supplemental Document 2'' in 
Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2015-0178 or http://www.fws.gov/northflorida and 
http://www.fws.gov/caribbean/es. This table shows an extensive list of 
existing regulatory mechanisms in place for the West Indian manatee; 
many have been instituted, revised, or improved to better protect the 
    Based on population growth and stability described earlier in this 
rule (Florida subspecies-6,350 manatees; Puerto Rico-532 manatees), the 
above-described mechanisms are adequate to continue to allow growth in 
the West Indian manatee population in the United States and expand 
protection for their habitat as needed. If this downlisting rule is 
finalized, the West Indian manatee in the United States will remain 
protected as a threatened species under the ESA, and as a depleted 
species under the MMPA, and these existing regulatory mechanisms will 
remain in effect. As long as funding remains available, recovery 
actions would continue to be implemented, regulations enforced, and 
additional measures adopted as needs arise. State and Federal agencies 
would continue to coordinate on the implementation of manatee 
conservation measures.
    Summary: Based on the above, the inadequacy of regulatory 
mechanisms is considered to be a moderate threat to the West Indian 
manatee. Although numerous regulatory mechanisms to protect manatees 
exist, challenges in the enforcement of these regulatory mechanisms 
have been identified. This threat is not severe enough to indicate the 
West Indian manatee is in danger of extinction. If this downlisting 
rule is finalized, all regulatory mechanisms will remain in place and 
will continue

[[Page 1020]]

to provide legal protections to the species throughout its range.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Other factors affecting West Indian manatees include human-related 
interactions, such as watercraft collisions, harassment, fishing gear 
entanglement, exposure to contaminants, and naturally occurring 
phenomena, such as harmful algal blooms, exposure to the cold, loss of 
genetic diversity, climate change, and tropical storms and hurricanes. 
In 2007, the Service considered this factor the most significant due to 
watercraft collisions (USFWS 2007, pp. 32-33).


    Watercraft collisions that kill or injure manatees are a threat in 
some range countries outside the United States. However, current 
information on the effects of boat traffic on manatees does not exist 
for most range countries outside the United States. In some countries 
such as Belize, watercraft collisions were the predominant cause of 
death from 1996 to 2003 with an increasing trend (Auil and Valentine 
2004, in UNEP 2010, p. 22). As the number of registered boats has 
increased significantly since the mid-1990s, manatees are most 
vulnerable to collisions in the waters near Belize City (Auil 1998, in 
UNEP 2010, p. 22). Motorboats are becoming more abundant and popular in 
Guatemala, and watercraft traffic and speed are not regulated even 
within protected areas (UNEP 2010, pp. 45-46). An aquatic 
transportation system with high-powered engines has increased boat 
transit in one of the most important manatee habitats areas in Panama 
(UNEP 2010, p. 66). Increased boating activities in Brazil have 
resulted in both lethal collisions with manatees and disruption of 
manatee behavior (Self-Sullivan and Mignucci-Giannoni 2012, p. 43).
    Within the United States, watercraft-related deaths have been 
identified as the most significant anthropogenic threat to manatees in 
both Florida and Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, 34 years of manatee 
mortality data from 1980 to 2014 indicate that a total of 37 manatees 
have died due to watercraft (Mignucci et al. 2000, p. 192; Mignucci-
Giannoni 2006, p. 2; PRDNER 2015, unpubl. data). This number represents 
approximately 15 percent of the total known mortality cases during that 
time (37 out of 242) or an average of 1.1 manatees per year. Although 
37 deaths may be considered a low number, it can be argued that the 
percentage of watercraft-related causes of death may be somewhat 
underestimated for three reasons. First, for the majority of the 
manatee mortality cases in Puerto Rico, the cause of death is deemed 
undetermined (38 percent, 92 out of 242), mostly because carcasses are 
too decomposed when found and a cause of death cannot be determined, so 
it may be that many of these deaths are also watercraft-related. 
Second, watercraft-related effects that may cause a mother and calf 
separation will go undetected, as it would be challenging to find 
evidence of such an event. The number of dependent calf deaths in 
Puerto Rico for the past 34 years is 55 calves (22.6 percent, 55 out of 
242) or an average of 1.6 manatee calves per year. The majority of the 
manatees rescued for rehabilitation in Puerto Rico are calves. Lastly, 
it is assumed that not all carcasses are recovered, so that there may 
be additional undocumented deaths caused by watercraft.
    On the other hand, carcass salvage numbers for Puerto Rico indicate 
that the number of watercraft-related deaths is low, and the population 
is believed to remain stable (see Population Size and Trend sections) 
in spite of these numbers. As boat use in Puerto Rico has increased in 
number and distribution (PRDNER 2012, p. 3), and with no State or 
Federal MPAs yet established, one may expect an increase in watercraft-
related conflicts. Still, manatee carcass totals for Puerto Rico have 
exceeded 10 or more only six times over 34 years and average 
approximately 7 per year (Mignucci et al. 2000, p. 192; Mignucci-
Giannoni 2006, p. 2; PRDNER Manatee Stranding Reports 2015, unpubl. 
data). In addition, calf numbers documented in the most recent aerial 
surveys indicate the population is reproducing well, with a record high 
of 23 calves counted in December 2013 (see Population size section). As 
the species continues to move towards recovery, the Service will 
continue to address and make improvements towards avoiding and further 
reducing this threat.
    A manatee carcass salvage program, started in 1974, collected and 
examined manatee carcasses to determine cause of death. This program 
identified watercraft collisions with manatees as a primary cause of 
human-related manatee mortality. The recent status review and threats 
analysis shows that watercraft-related mortality remains the single 
largest threat in Florida to the West Indian manatee (O'Shea et al. 
1985, entire; Ackerman et al. 1995, entire; Wright et al. 1995, entire; 
Deutsch et al. 2002, entire; Lightsey et al. 2006, entire; Rommel et 
al. 2007, entire, Runge et al. 2015, p. 16;). Runge et al. (2015, p. 
20) observed that watercraft-related mortality makes the largest 
contribution to the risk of extinction; full removal of this single 
threat would reduce the risk of extinction to near negligible levels. 
Mortality data from FWCs Manatee Carcass Salvage Program and other 
sources describe numbers of watercraft-related deaths, general areas 
where deaths occur, trauma, and other parameters (O'Shea et al. 1985, 
entire; Ackerman et al. 1995, entire; Wright et al. 1995, entire; 
Deutsch et al. 2002, entire; Lightsey et al. 2006, entire; Rommel et 
al. 2007, entire).
    Over the past 5 years, more than 80 manatees have died from 
watercraft-related incidents each year. The highest year on record was 
2009, when 97 manatees were killed in collisions with boats. The 
Manatee Individual Photo-identification System (1978 to present) 
identifies more than 3,000 Florida manatees by scar patterns mostly 
caused by boats, and most catalogued manatees have more than one scar 
pattern, indicative of multiple boat strikes. A cursory review of boat 
strike frequency suggested that some manatees are struck and injured by 
boats twice a year or more (O'Shea et al. 2001, pp. 33-35). The primary 
conservation action in place to reduce the risk of manatee injury and 
death from watercraft collisions is a limitation on watercraft speed. 
The rationale is that a slower speed allows both manatees and boaters 
additional response time to avoid a collision. Furthermore, if an 
impact occurs, the degree of trauma will generally be less if the 
colliding boat is operating at slower speed (Laist and Shaw 2006, p. 
478; Calleson and Frohlich 2007, p. 295). Despite continued losses due 
to watercraft collisions, the southeastern U.S. manatee population is 
expected to increase slowly under current conditions (Runge et al. 
2015, p. 11).
    Federal, State, and local speed zones are established in 26 Florida 
counties. In Brevard and Lee Counties, where watercraft-related 
mortality is among the highest reported, speed zone regulations were 
substantially revised and areas posted to improve manatee protection in 
the early 2000s. Since 2004, the FWC has approved new manatee 
protection rules for three counties in Tampa Bay and reviewed and 
updated speed zones in Sarasota, Broward, Charlotte, Lee, and Duval 
Counties. In October 2005, the Hillsborough County Commission adopted 
mandatory manatee protection slow-speed zones in the Cockroach Bay 
Aquatic Preserve that previously had been voluntary. In 2012, speed 
zones were established in the Intracoastal

[[Page 1021]]

Waterway in Flagler County. In addition, of the 13 counties identified 
in 1989 as in need of State-approved MPPs, all have approved plans. Two 
additional counties, Clay and Levy, proactively developed their own 
MPPs. Implementation of these protective measures stabilizes and may 
even reduce the mortality rate from watercraft collisions.
    The Service developed programmatic consultation procedures and 
permit conditions for new and expanding watercraft facilities (e.g., 
docks, boat ramps, and marinas) as well as for dredging and other in-
water activities through an effect determination key with the U.S. Army 
Corps of Engineers and State of Florida (the ``Manatee Key'') (recently 
revised in 2013). The Manatee Key ensures that watercraft facility 
locations are consistent with MPP boat facility siting criteria and are 
built consistent with MPP construction conditions. The Service 
concluded that these procedures constitute appropriate and responsible 
steps to avoid and minimize adverse effects to the species and 
contribute to recovery of the species.

Fishing Gear

    Fishing gear (nets, crab traps, etc.) is known to entangle and 
injure and kill manatees; ingestion of fishing gear and other debris 
(monofilament and associated tackle, plastic banana bags, etc.) also 
kills manatees. In countries outside the United States, the incidental 
capture of animals in fishing gear is still a threat, and the captured 
manatees are occasionally butchered and used for food and various 
products. In Cuba, researchers have recently documented a decrease in 
the number of manatee deaths within a marine protected area, 
hypothesized to be due to a ban on the use of trawl net fishing in that 
area (Sea to Shore Alliance 2014, entire). One of the principal causes 
of perceived increases in manatee decline along the northern and 
western coasts of the Yucatan peninsula includes increased use of 
fishing nets that entangle manatees (Morales-Vela et al. 2003, in UNEP 
2010, p. 59; Serrano et al. 2007, p. 111). In Honduras, the major cause 
of known manatee mortality in the period 1970-2007 was due to 
entanglement in fishnets (Gonz[aacute]lez-Socoloske et al. 2011, p. 
123), while Nicaragua reports between 41 and 49 manatees being killed 
by accidental entanglements in fishing nets from 1999 to 2000 
(Jim[eacute]nez 2002, in UNEP 2010, p. 63). Although gillnets are 
illegal in Costa Rica, gillnet entanglements still occur there. 
However, they are uncommon in certain protected manatee use areas 
(Jim[eacute]nez 2005, in UNEP 2010, p. 34). Castelblanco-
Mart[iacute]nez et al. (2009, in Marsh et al. 2011, p. 278) suggest 
that incidental drowning in fishing nets causes almost half of the 
mortality and wounding of manatees in the Orinoco River in Colombia. A 
variety of fishing gear was reported to cause manatee entanglements, 
and at least 43 calves were entangled in gear in northeast Brazil 
between 1981 and 2002 (UNEP 2010, p. 26). Currently, on the northeast 
coast of Brazil, the main cause of manatee deaths is due to the 
constant presence of gill and drag nets (Lima et al. 2011, p. 107). 
Similar to the lack of knowledge regarding the effects of boat traffic 
on manatees, most range countries outside of the United States do not 
have current information on the effects of fishing gear and 
entanglements on manatees.
    In Puerto Rico, fisheries-related entanglements and debris 
ingestion may cause take and reduce fitness of manatees. In July 2009, 
there was a documented case of entanglement (beach seine net) and 
successful release of an adult manatee and in 2014, three adult 
manatees were entangled in large fishing nets; one of them was an adult 
female that died (PRDNER 2015, unpubl. data). A few manatees have also 
been found that were severely entangled in monofilament line. These 
events are considered a low threat because stranding records indicate 
they rarely cause manatee deaths in Puerto Rico; a total of four (4) in 
34 years.
    Fishing gear, including both gear in use and discarded gear (i.e., 
crab traps and monofilament fishing line), is a continuing and 
increasing problem for manatees in the southeastern United States. It 
is unknown if the increasing number of rescues is a reflection of 
increasing awareness and reporting of entangled manatees, increases in 
fishing effort, increases in the number of manatees, or other factors. 
Between 2010 and 2014, researchers attribute 18.2 percent of all 
rescues to entanglement.
    Rescue activities that disentangle manatees have almost eliminated 
mortalities and injuries associated with fishing gear (USFWS Captive 
Manatee Database, 2015, unpubl. data). Derelict crab trap removal and 
monofilament recycling programs aid in efforts to reduce the number of 
entanglements by removing gear from the water. Extensive education and 
outreach efforts increase awareness and promote sound gear disposal 
activities. As a result, deaths and serious injuries associated with 
fishing gear are now extremely rare. Runge et al. (2015, p. 16) 
determined that marine debris (including entanglements in and ingestion 
of fishing gear) presented a weak threat to the West Indian manatee in 
Florida. In the future, we would like to seek opportunities to share 
information with countries like Cuba, Belize, and Mexico and continue 
to make entanglement from discarded or current gear a low threat 

Water Control Structures

    Advances in water control structure devices that prevent manatees 
from being crushed or impinged have been largely successful. In 
Florida, most structures have been fitted with devices. These devices 
include acoustic arrays, piezoelectric strips, grates, and bars that 
reverse closing structures and/or prevent manatees from accessing gates 
and recesses. Runge et al. (2015, p. 16) determined that water control 
structures presented a weak threat to the West Indian manatee in 
Florida and noted that death or injury due to water control structures 
had become a rare event (2015, p. 19).


    Direct and indirect exposure to contaminants and/or chemical 
pollutants in benthic habitats is another factor that may have adverse 
effects on manatees (Bonde et al. 2004, p. 258). Contaminants are known 
to have affected one manatee in Puerto Rico (diesel spill), and 
residues from sugar processing in Cuba are thought to have killed 
manatees there. Manatees may have abandoned Cuba's largest bay area 
because of contamination (UNEP 1995 in UNEP 2010, p. 37). There are 
many activities that introduce contaminants and pollutants into the 
manatees' environment--gold mining, agriculture, oil and gas 
production, and others. Despite the presence of contaminants in manatee 
tissues, the effect that these have on manatees is poorly understood 
(Marsh et al. 2011, pp. 302-305)

Algal Blooms

    In Florida, algal blooms pose a localized threat to West Indian 
manatees. Specifically, in southwest Florida, extensive red tide blooms 
killed 276 manatees in 2013 (see Table 2). Runge et al. (2015, p. 20) 
noted that on Florida's Gulf coast, red tide effects are stronger than 
the effect of watercraft-related mortality due, in part, to ``the 
increased estimate of adult survival in the Southwest and the 
anticipated continued increase in the frequency of severe red-tide 
mortality.'' Runge et al.'s (2015, p. 1) analysis did not address the 
effect of the 2013 red tide event in its assessment.

[[Page 1022]]

    In 2011, algal blooms in Florida's Indian River Lagoon clouded the 
water column and killed over 50 percent of the seagrass beds in the 
region (St. Johns River Water Management District, 2015). The loss of 
seagrass beds likely caused a dietary change that may have played a 
role in the loss of more than a hundred manatees in the area. While 
algal blooms occur in other parts of the species' range, there have not 
been any significant die-offs attributable to this cause in this 
portion of the species' range.

Cold Weather

    The Florida manatee subspecies is at the northern limit of the 
species' range. As a subtropical species, manatees have little 
tolerance for cold and must move to warm water during the winter as a 
refuge from the cold. During extremely cold weather, hundreds of 
animals died in 2010 and 2011 due to cold stress. Notably, animals that 
relied on Florida's natural warm-water springs fared the best, while 
animals in east-central and south Florida, where springs are absent, 
fared the worst (Barlas et al. 2011, p. 31). Manatees using seagrass 
beds along east-central Florida's Atlantic coast cannot easily access 
warm-water springs of the St. Johns River during periods of cold 
temperatures, and, in the absence of access to warm water associated 
with power plants, these manatees are at risk. Since these events, the 
number of deaths due to cold has returned to an average of roughly 30 
per year (FWC FWRI 2015, unpubl. data). While cold stress remains a 
threat to Florida manatees, Antillean manatees, found outside of the 
southeastern United States, do not suffer from cold stress because they 
inhabit warm subtropical waters. Progress is being made in protecting 
warm-water sites; we continue to work with our partners to protect 
these sources to minimize cold-related manatee deaths.


    Isolated locations, small population sizes, and low genetic 
diversity increase the susceptibility of West Indian manatee to rapid 
decline and local extinction (Hunter et al. 2012, p. 1631). Low genetic 
diversity has been identified as a threat to manatee populations in 
Puerto Rico and Belize (Hunter et al. 2010, entire; Hunter et al. 2012, 
entire). In addition, the manatee population in Puerto Rico is 
essentially closed to immigration from outside sources. Natural 
geographical features and manatee behavior limits gene flow from other 
neighboring manatee populations (i.e., Dominican Republic), and genetic 
mixing is not expected (Hunter et al. 2012, p. 1631). Manatee 
populations in other portions of the range may also be affected by 
isolation, small population size, and low genetic diversity. Low 
genetic diversity in the southeastern United States has been identified 
as a potential concern (Bonde et al. 2012, p. 15). However, there is 
limited detailed genetic information to confirm the significance of 
this as a threat to the West Indian manatee as a whole.

Tropical Storms

    Tropical storms and hurricanes may also pose a threat to manatees. 
Live manatee strandings and reduced adult manatee survival rates can be 
attributed, in part, to hurricanes and storms (Langtimm and Beck 2003, 
entire, Langtimm et al. 2006, entire). Langtimm and Beck (2003) suggest 
that both direct and indirect mortality (from strandings, debris-
related injuries, animals being swept offshore, etc.) and/or emigration 
associated with hurricanes and storms may cause a decrease in adult 
survival rates. This result has been observed in Florida and in Mexico: 
Hurricanes and storms are thought to affect the presence/absence of 
manatees in storm-struck areas. In Puerto Rico, tropical storms and 
hurricanes intensify heavy surf, and at least one manatee calf death 
was attributed to Hurricane Hortense in 1996 (USFWS 2007, p. 33). Other 
factors can either exacerbate or ameliorate risk to the manatee 
population, such as density of manatees within the strike area, the 
number of storms within a season, protective features of the coastline 
such as barrier islands, or occurrence of other mortality factors 
(Langtimm et al. 2006, p. 1026). However, there is limited information 
to confirm the significance of tropical storms as a threat.

Climate Change/Sea-Level Rise

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that 
warming of the climate system is unequivocal (IPCC 2014, p. 3). The 
more extreme impacts from recent climate change include heat waves, 
droughts, accelerated snow and ice melt including permafrost warming 
and thawing, floods, cyclones, wildfires, and widespread changes in 
precipitation amounts (IPCC 2014, pp. 4, 6). Due to projected sea level 
rise (SLR) associated with climate change, coastal systems and low-
lying areas will increasingly experience adverse impacts such as 
submergence, coastal flooding, and coastal erosion (IPCC 2014, p. 17). 
In response to ongoing climate change, many terrestrial, freshwater, 
and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal 
activities, and migration patterns (IPCC 2014, p. 4).
    Although SLR is due in part to natural variability in the climate 
system, scientists attribute the majority of the observed increase in 
recent decades to human activities that contribute to ocean thermal 
expansion related to ocean warming, and melting of ice (Marcos and 
Amores 2014, pp. 2504-2505).
    Trend data show increases in sea level have been occurring 
throughout the southeastern Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and, according to 
Mitchum (2011, p. 9), the overall magnitude in the region has been 
slightly higher than the global average. Measurements summarized for 
stations at various locations in Florida indicate SLR there has totaled 
approximately 200 millimeters (mm) (8 inches (in.)) over the past 100 
years, with an average of about 3.0 mm per year (0.12 in. per year) 
since the early 1990s (Ruppert 2014, p. 2). The relatively few tidal 
gauges in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and southern North 
Carolina also show increases, the largest being in South Carolina, 
Alabama, and parts of Florida (NOAA Web site http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends.shtml, accessed August 28, 
    Continued global SLR is considered virtually certain to occur 
throughout this century and beyond (Stocker, 2013, p. 100; Levermann et 
al. 2013, entire). Depending on the methods and assumptions used, 
however, the range of possible scenarios of global average SLR for the 
end of this century is relatively large, from a low of 0.2 meters (m) 
(approximately 8 in.) to a high of 2 m (approximately 78 in., i.e., 6.6 
feet (ft)) (Parris et al. 2012, pp. 2, 10-11). Although this relatively 
wide range reflects considerable uncertainty about the exact magnitude 
of change, it is notable that increases are expected in all cases, and 
at rates that will exceed the SLR observed since the 1970s (IPCC 2013, 
pp. 25-26). Given the large number and variety of climate change and 
SLR models, forecasts of the rate and extent of SLR vary significantly. 
Because of the variation in projections and uncertainties associated 
with manatee response to SLR, it will be important to continue 
monitoring manatee habitat use throughout the species' range.
    Other possible effects of climate change include increases in the 
frequency of harmful algal blooms, increases in the frequency and 
intensity of storms, losses of warm-water refugia and possible 
decreases in the number of watercraft collisions. Warmer seas may

[[Page 1023]]

increase the frequency, duration, and magnitude of harmful algal blooms 
and cause blooms to start earlier and last longer. Increases in 
salinity could create more favorable conditions for other species; 
conversely, increases in storm frequency and extreme rainfall could 
offset the effects of salinity on algal growth (Edwards et al. 2012, p. 
    Climate change models predict that the intensity of hurricanes will 
increase with increasing global mean temperature (Edwards et al. 2012, 
p. 4). Langtimm et al. (2006, entire) found that mean adult survival 
dropped significantly in years after intense hurricanes and winter 
storms. These decreases were thought to be due to tidal stranding, 
animals being swept out to sea, loss of forage, or emigration of 
animals out of affected areas (Langtimm et al. 2006, p. 1026).
    For manatees in the southeastern United States, SLR could mean the 
loss of most of the major industrial warm-water sites and result in 
changes to natural warm-water sites. In the event of a projected SLR of 
1 to 2 meters (3.3 to 6.6 feet) in 88 years (Rahmstorf 2010 and Parris 
et al. 2012 in Edwards et al. 2012, p. 5), SLR will inundate these 
sites and warm-water capacity could be lost. While power plants may not 
be in operation when SLR inundates their sites, the increased intensity 
and frequency of storms could interrupt plant operations and warm-water 
production. If storms result in the loss of a power plant, manatees 
that winter at that site could die in the event that they did not move 
to an alternate location (Edwards et al. 2012, p. 5). Increased 
intrusion of saltwater from SLR or storm surge coupled with reduced 
spring flows could reduce or eliminate the viability of natural springs 
used by wintering manatees (Edwards et al. 2012, p. 5).
    Climate-change-induced loss of fishing habitat and boating 
infrastructure (docks, etc.), increases in storm frequency, and 
pollutants and changes in economics and human demographics could 
decrease the per capita number of boats operating in manatee habitat. 
If these changes were to occur, decreases in the numbers of boats 
operating in manatee habitat could reduce numbers of manatee-watercraft 
collisions (Edwards et al. 2012, p. 7).
    Many complex factors with potentially negative consequences are 
likely to operate on the world's marine ecosystems as global climate 
change progresses. Conversely, climate change could potentially have a 
beneficial effect, as well. Therefore, there is uncertainty regarding 
how climate change may affect the manatee and its habitat in the future 
(Hoegh-Guldberg and Bruno 2010 in Marsh et al. 2011, p. 313).
    Summary: Threats (watercraft, fishing gear, water control 
structures, contaminants; harmful algal blooms, cold weather, loss of 
genetic diversity, tropical storms, and climate change) will continue 
to have an effect on West Indian manatees. The threats associated with 
increasing numbers of watercraft will require continued maintenance and 
enforcement of manatee protection areas, and the adoption of additional 
areas both inside and outside the United States will continue as needs 
become apparent. Increasing fishing efforts and the consequent increase 
of fishing gear in water will require continued efforts to maintain 
gear in a manatee-safe fashion, additional and continued gear clean-
ups, and maintenance of the manatee rescue program to rescue entangled 
manatees. While most water control structures in the United States have 
been fitted to prevent impingements and crushings, new structures in 
the United States must be fitted to minimize impacts to manatees. 
Existing and new structures outside the United States should be fitted, 
as well. For manatees in Florida, harmful algal blooms and cold weather 
will continue to be major threats to this subspecies. Tropical storms 
and hurricanes will continue to have an effect on the West Indian 
manatee in most parts of its range. Projections of climate change and 
sea level rise impacts on West Indian manatees and their habitat are 
    Both Castelblanco et al. (2012, entire) and Runge et al. (2015, 
entire) project increasing populations under these threats as they 
currently exist. Accordingly, we consider threats identified in Factor 
E to be current threats to the species. There is a high level of 
uncertainty regarding the overall effects of climate change on the 
species and its habitat. Thus, we consider the threats identified under 
this factor to be moderate.


    By definition, an endangered species is a ``species which is in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range'' and a threatened species is a ``species which is likely to 
become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range.'' We believe that the West 
Indian manatee is no longer in danger of extinction throughout all of 
its range due to significant recovery efforts made throughout its range 
to address threats as well as a better understanding of manatee 
population demographics. In the southeastern United States, where the 
largest population of manatees exists, the manatee population has 
likely grown, based on updated adult survival rate estimates and 
estimated growth rates (Runge et al. 2015, p. 19). Accordingly, we 
believe that the West Indian manatee should be reclassified as 
threatened. Each of these successes is discussed in more detail below.
    Human causes of mortality and injury are being addressed throughout 
the species' range. Predominant causes include poaching, entanglement 
in fishing gear, and collisions with watercraft. Poaching has been 
eliminated in the southeastern United States and in Puerto Rico. 
Efforts to address poaching outside the United States vary in 
effectiveness, with successful efforts noted in areas with a 
significant enforcement presence. Entanglement in fishing gear 
continues throughout the species' range. In the southeastern United 
States, entangled manatees are rescued and very few deaths and serious 
injuries occur. In Puerto Rico, there have been few entanglements since 
1986, when entanglements were first reported as a serious threat. 
Entanglements outside the United States are known to occur; however, 
the magnitude and severity of this threat is unknown.
    Watercraft collisions are the predominant anthropogenic cause of 
death for manatees in the United States. The Service, other Federal 
agencies, and State and Commonwealth wildlife management agencies 
continue to be engaged in significant efforts to address and further 
reduce this threat. In Florida, a network of marked, enforced, manatee 
protection areas ensure that boat operators slow down to help avoid 
manatees. In Puerto Rico, manatee protection areas have not been 
designated, but a number of regulated manatee speed buoys are in place 
to better protect manatees. Watercraft collisions are known to kill 
manatees outside the United States; however, available information on 
the magnitude of this threat in other counties is limited.
    Habitat fragmentation and loss are thought to be the greatest 
single threat to manatees outside the United States. Development 
activities in coastal and riverine areas destroy aquatic vegetation and 
block access to upriver reaches and freshwater. Within the United 
States, Federal, State, and Commonwealth agencies limit habitat losses 
and those activities that block access through regulatory processes. 
For example, the State of Florida and the Service rely on county MPPs 
to address impacts to

[[Page 1024]]

manatee habitat from installation of, for example, a boat dock or 
marina. In Florida, the other potential significant threat facing 
manatees is the loss of winter warm-water habitat. Federal and State 
agencies are working with the power industry and others to ensure a 
future warm-water network to sustain manatees into the future. While 
many strides have been made in this area, work continues to be done to 
fully address and reduce this threat, as described above in our review 
of the Florida manatee recovery plans. In addition, we must continue to 
address pending changes in the manatees' warm-water network (develop 
and implement strategies) and support the adoption of minimum flow 
regulations for remaining important springs used by manatees.
    Available population estimates suggest that there may be as many as 
13,142 manatees throughout the species' range (see Table 1). Estimates 
from countries outside the United States (6,250) are largely 
conjectural and are based on the opinions of local experts. Within the 
United States, Martin et al. (2015, p. 44) and Pollock et al. (2013, p. 
8) describe population estimates of 6,350 manatees and 532 manatees in 
the southeastern United States and Puerto Rico, respectively.
    Recent demographic analyses (through 2009) suggest a stable or 
increasing population of Florida manatees (Runge et al. 2015, entire) 
and demonstrate that Florida manatees are not likely to become extinct 
in the foreseeable future. Castelblanco-Mart[iacute]nez et al.'s (2012, 
pp. 129-143) PVA model for the West Indian manatee describes a 
metapopulation with positive growth. Runge et al. (2015, p. 13) predict 
that it is unlikely (<2.5 percent chance) that the Florida population 
of manatees will fall below 4,000 total individuals over the next 100 
years, assuming current threats remain constant indefinitely.
    There are numerous ongoing efforts to protect, conserve, and better 
understand West Indian manatees and their habitat throughout their 
range, as described in this proposed rule. The contribution of these 
recovery efforts to the current status of the species is significant. 
Some threats remain and will likely continue into the foreseeable 
future and need to be addressed as appropriate. However, they are not 
severe enough to indicate that the West Indian manatee is currently in 
danger of extinction. Given our review of the best scientific and 
commercial information available and analyses of threats and 
demographics, we conclude that the West Indian manatee no longer meets 
the Act's definition of endangered and should be reclassified as 

Significant Portion of the Range

    Because we have concluded that the West Indian manatee is a 
threatened species throughout all of its range, no portion of its range 
can be ``significant'' for purposes of the definitions of ``endangered 
species'' and ``threatened species.'' See the Service's Significant 
Portion of its Range (SPR) Policy (79 FR 37578, July 1, 2014).

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, recovery actions, 
requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain 
practices. Recognition through listing increases public awareness of 
threats to the West Indian manatee, and promotes conservation actions 
by Federal, State, and local governments in the United States, foreign 
governments, private organizations and groups, and individuals. The Act 
provides for possible land acquisition and cooperation with the State, 
and for recovery planning and implementation. The protection required 
of Federal agencies and the prohibitions against taking and harm are 
discussed, in part, below.
    A number of manatees occur in near-shore waters off Federal 
conservation lands and are consequently afforded some protection from 
development and large-scale habitat disturbance. West Indian manatees 
also occur in or offshore of a variety of State-owned properties, and 
existing State and Federal regulations provide protection on these 
sites. A significant number of manatees occur along shores or rivers of 
private lands. Through conservation partnerships, many of these use 
areas are protected through the owners' stewardship. In many cases, 
these partnerships have been developed through conservation easements, 
wetland restoration projects, and other conservation means.
    Section 7(a) of the Act, as amended, and as implemented by 
regulations in title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 
part 402, requires Federal agencies to evaluate their actions with 
respect to the West Indian manatee within the United States or under 
U.S. jurisdiction. If a Federal action may adversely affect the manatee 
or its habitat, the responsible Federal agency must consult with the 
Service to ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by 
such agency is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the 
West Indian manatee. Federal action agencies that may be required to 
consult with us include but are not limited to the U.S. Army Corps of 
Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, 
and others, due to involvement in actions or projects such as 
permitting boat access facilities (marinas, boat ramps, etc.), dredge 
and fill projects, high-speed marine events, warm-water discharges, and 
many other activities.
    Section 8(a) of the Act authorizes the provision of limited 
financial assistance for the development and management of programs 
that the Secretary of the Interior determines to be necessary or useful 
for the conservation of endangered or threatened species in foreign 
countries. Sections 8(b) and 8(c) of the Act authorize the Secretary to 
encourage conservation programs for foreign listed species, and to 
provide assistance for such programs, in the form of personnel and the 
training of personnel.
    The Secretary has the discretion to prohibit by regulation with 
respect to any threatened species any act prohibited under section 
9(a)(1) of the Act. Exercising this discretion, the Service developed 
general prohibitions (50 CFR 17.31) and exceptions to those 
prohibitions (50 CFR 17.32) under the Act that apply to most threatened 
species. Our regulations at 50 CFR 17.31 provide that all the 
prohibitions for endangered wildlife under 50 CFR 17.21, with the 
exception of 50 CFR 17.21(c)(5), will generally also be applied to 
threatened wildlife. These prohibitions make it illegal for any person 
subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to ``take'' (including 
to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, 
collect, or to attempt any of these) within the United States or upon 
the high seas, import or export, deliver, receive, carry, transport, or 
ship in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of a commercial 
activity, or to sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign 
commerce, any endangered (and hence, threatened) wildlife species. It 
also is illegal to possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship 
any such wildlife that has been taken in violation of the Act. Certain 
exceptions apply to agents of the Service and State conservation 
agencies. These prohibitions would be applicable to the West Indian 
manatee if this rule is made final. The general provisions for issuing 
a permit for any activity otherwise prohibited with regard to 
threatened species are found at 50 CFR 17.32.
    The Service may develop regulations tailored to the particular 

[[Page 1025]]

needs of a threatened species under section 4(d) of the Act if there 
are specific prohibitions and exceptions that would be necessary and 
advisable for the conservation of that particular species. In such 
cases, some of the prohibitions and exceptions under 50 CFR 17.31 and 
17.32 may be appropriate for the species and incorporated into the 
regulations, but they may also be more or less restrictive than those 
general provisions. The Service believes the prohibitions and 
exceptions set out in 50 CFR 17.31 and 17.32 are most appropriate to 
address the particular conservation needs of the West Indian manatee at 
this time.
    In Florida, questions regarding whether specific activities will 
constitute a violation of section 9 of the Act should be directed to 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Florida Ecological Services 
Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). In Puerto Rico, questions 
regarding whether specific activities will constitute a violation of 
section 9 of the Act should be directed to the Caribbean Ecological 
Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Requests 
for copies of the regulations regarding listed species and inquiries 
about prohibitions and permits may be addressed to the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Ecological Services Division, 1875 Century Boulevard, 
Suite 200, Atlanta, GA 30345 (telephone 404-679-7101, facsimile 404-

Effects of This Rulemaking

    This proposed rule, if made final, would revise 50 CFR 17.11(h) to 
reclassify the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened on the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. It would recognize 
that the West Indian manatee is no longer in danger of extinction 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range. However, this 
reclassification would not change the protection afforded to this 
species under the Act. In addition, even if the West Indian manatee is 
reclassified from endangered to threatened, it will still be considered 
depleted and strategic under the MMPA.
    We are also proposing to amend the historical range column for the 
species within the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (List) to 
clarify the range. As proposed, the text in that column would read: 
U.S.A. (Southeastern), Lesser and Greater Antilles (including Puerto 
Rico), Mexico, Central America, South America. The historical range 
information in the List is informational, not regulatory.
    Anyone taking, attempting to take, or otherwise possessing this 
species, or parts thereof, in violation of section 9 of the Act or its 
implementing regulations, is subject to a penalty under section 11 of 
the Act. Pursuant to section 7 of the Act, Federal agencies must ensure 
that any actions they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of the West Indian manatee.
    If the West Indian manatee is listed as threatened and this 
proposed rule is made final, recovery actions directed at the West 
Indian manatee would continue to be implemented as outlined in the 
recovery plans (USFWS 1986 and 2001, entire). Highest priority recovery 
actions include: (1) Reducing watercraft collisions with manatees; (2) 
protecting habitat, including foraging and drinking water sites and, 
for the Florida subspecies, warm-water sites; and (3) reducing 
entanglements in fishing gear. Other recovery initiatives also include 
addressing harassment and illegal hunting in sites where these occur.
    Finalization of this proposed rule would not constitute an 
irreversible commitment on our part. Reclassification of the West 
Indian manatee from threatened status back to endangered status would 
be possible if changes occur in management, population status, or 
habitat, or if other factors detrimentally affect or increase threats 
to the species.

Required Determinations

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that we do not need to prepare an environmental 
assessment or environmental impact statement, as defined in the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), in 
connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Endangered Species Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for 
this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175, and the Department 
of the Interior Manual Chapter 512 DM 2, we have considered possible 
effects on and have notified the Native American Tribes within the 
range of the West Indian manatee about this proposal. They have been 
advised through a written informational mailing from the Service. If 
future activities resulting from this proposed rule may affect Tribal 
resources, a Plan of Cooperation will be developed with the affected 
Tribe or Tribes.

Clarity of This Regulation (E.O. 12866)

    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the 
Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain 
language. This means that each rule we publish must:
    (a) Be logically organized;
    (b) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (c) Use clear language rather than jargon;
    (d) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    (e) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us 
comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES. To better help 
us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. 
For example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections or 
paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are 
too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, 

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited is available on http://www.regulations.gov under Docket Number FWS-R4-ES-2015-0178 or upon 
request from the North Florida Ecological Services Field Office or 
Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 


    The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the 
North Florida Ecological Services Office and Caribbean Ecological 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and Threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter 
I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:


1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

[[Page 1026]]

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 1531-1544; and 4201-4245; unless 
otherwise noted.

2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by revising the entry for ``Manatee, West 
Indian'' under ``Mammals'' in the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife to read as follows:

Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                        population where                       When       Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered or         Status         listed      habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Manatee, West Indian.............  Trichechus manatus..  U.S.A.               Entire.............  T                 1, 3, ___     17.95(a)    17.108(a)
                                                          Lesser and Greater
                                                          (including Puerto
                                                          Rico), Mexico,
                                                          Central America,
                                                          South America.
                                                                      * * * * * * *

* * * * *

    Dated: December 18, 2015.
James W. Kurth,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-32645 Filed 1-7-16; 8:45 am]