Hey! You! Get off of my Endangered Species

My apologies to the Rolling Stones for stealing my headline from the chorus of their 1965 hit, manateeGet off of my Cloud, but it seems to apply to what a national environmental organization has asked the federal government to do.

The group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility(PEER) has petitioned the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to prohibit all swimming with manatees, a large marine mammal sometimes called “sea cows”, citing increasing harassment of the endangered species.

Every year an estimated 100,000 tourists participate in manatee “swim-with” programs that promote direct encounters in manatee lagoons. Studies indicate that approximately half of these human-manatee interactions constitute harassment, with tourists routinely observed poking, chasing, standing on or kicking manatees, as well as separating mothers from calves.

PEER cites the antiharassment requirements outlined both in the Marine Mammal Protection Act 16 USC 1361 and the Endangered Species Act 16 USC 1531, and threatens to sue the FWS if it does not stringently enforce the rules outlined by these acts.

Both the MMPA and the ESA prohibit the “take” of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas. The concept of take is defined by the MMPA as harass, hunt, capture, kill or collect, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, kill or collect.” . The ESA broadened this definition by defining take as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.”

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