Legal group challenges manatee's endangered status

Published On: Dec 15 2012 11:51:50 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 17 2012 10:29:07 AM EST
STUART, Fla. -

A conservative legal group and some north Florida business owners are asking the federal government to strip the manatee of its endangered species status.

The Pacific Legal Foundation filed a petition Friday with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The California-based group represents Citrus County business owners who argue federal restrictions harm the fishing and tourism industries on a bay where manatees gather for the winter.

The group said a 2007 federal review concluded that manatee population numbers had increased enough to downgrade the species from endangered to threatened. However, no action was taken.

The change wouldn't immediately alter protections for the marine mammal. The petition says it's necessary to maintain regulatory credibility.

The Sun Sentinel reported a fish and wildlife spokesman said the agency will consider reviewing the petition.