Florida wildlife officials have removed the Keys’ population of ospreys from the state’s list of Species of Special Concern after finding statewide numbers are up. Some had wanted the Keys’ birds listed as their own distinct population.
The Florida Keys’ ospreys, the fierce fish hawks whose massive nests dot utility poles, channel markers and nesting platforms up and down the ribbon of islands, will no longer be listed as an imperiled species by the state.
State wildlife officials announced Monday that a rare resident population of the migratory birds in Monroe County had been removed from the list in December after a yearlong review found the number of birds rising statewide.
While some have argued the Keys’ clan should be classified as their own subspecies, state wildlife officials said there’s no evidence that the ospreys are genetically distinct. It’s still illegal to kill the birds, but the designation means fewer rules for developers.
Conservationists welcomed the reported increase. Three decades ago after a seagrass die-off created a 100-square mile dead zone across Florida Bay oozing pea-green algae, the population plummeted. But they worry about stripping protections while the bay’s health remains fragile following a similar seagrass die-off just three years ago.
“The scary thing is we just had a big seagrass die-off followed by algae blooms. This is the same process that led to the declines of the osprey in the eighties and nineties,” said Jerry Lorenz, state research director for Audubon Florida. “So I’m going to remain optimistic, but I’m also going to say let’s wait and see.”
This article was first published by The Miami Herald on 15 Jan 2019.
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