MIAMI, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Environmentalists are objecting to a plan by Florida wildlife officials to downgrade the protective status of manatees from "endangered" to "threatened."
Officials say the plan is the result of the manatee population rebounding from near-extinction numbers but critics of the plan say it is merely an attempt to satisfy pro-development industry groups that have objected to the regulations put in place to protect the water mammals, the Christian Science Monitor reported Wednesday.
"People are being tricked into believing that these species are doing better than they are," said Patrick Rose, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club.
He said the state should be focusing on creating a sustainable breeding population for the manatees rather than changing regulations that would decrease protections for the animals, the newspaper reported.
However, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials in the state say the manatees have recovered to an acceptable level.
"The recovery of the manatee is pretty well established to the point that threatened is the proper classification," Henry Cabbage, a commission spokesman, told the Minotor. "This is a success story. It is something we ought to be celebrating."