ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — U.S. wildlife officials have agreed to revise the critical habitat designation for Florida manatees, which have been dying in record numbers because water pollution is killing a main food source.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a court settlement made public Wednesday that it will publish a proposed revision by Sept. 12, 2024.
The agreement comes in a long-running court case involving the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Save the Manatee Club.
The rule would bring enhanced federal scrutiny to projects that might affect the manatee in waterways in which the marine mammals are known to concentrate.
That includes the Indian River Lagoon in Florida, where wildlife officials have feed manatees tons of lettuce to prevent starvation.
The critical habitat designation for manatees has not been updated since 1976.
Last year, more than 1,100 manatees died largely from lack of food, a Florida record. This year's number is 562 deaths so far.