Manatees are difficult to see, especially when
moving in a boat on the water. Observations may include a
swirl on the surface caused by the manatee when diving;
seeing the animals back, snout, tail, or flipper
break the surface of the water; or hearing it when it surfaces to
Protection by law
The manatee is protected under federal law by the
Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and by the Endangered Species
Act of 1973, which make it illegal to harass, hunt, capture or kill
any marine mammal. The manatee is also protected by the Florida
Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978, which states: "It is unlawful for
any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy,
molest, harass, or disturb any manatee."
Anyone convicted of violating this state law faces
a possible maximum fine of $500 and/or imprisonment for up to 60
days. Conviction on the federal level is punishable by fine of up
to $50,000 and/or one year in prison. The State of Florida can
pursue prosecution under federal law in circumstances of extreme
harassment, resulting in the death or injury of a manatee.
I want to swim with Manatees. Where should I go?
Before you get too excited about swimming with an
endangered species, please realize that there are guidelines you
MUST follow so that these animals are not harassed. Your presence
impacts their natural behavior and habitat and you are responsible
for following the Do's and Don'ts below!
The Crystal River and Kings Bay area is the only
area in Florida where swimmers are monitored around manatees.
Viewing guidelines and sanctuary rules must be followed. Please
respect the directions from manatee volunteers and law enforcement
officers who are looking out for the best interest of manatees in
this area. Keep contact with manatees to a bare minimum as the
manatees that stay in this location need the warm waters of the
springs in order to survive the cold winter. Please visit the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife site for more information about the Crystal
River National Wildlife Refuge in Crystal River, Florida.
Contact the Crystal River Chamber of Commerce to find out
information about hotels, tours and boat rentals in the area.
Do's and Don'ts
The West Indian manatee is an endangered species
and is protected by state and federal law as stated above. Please
avoid harassing or disturbing manatees. Harassment is defined as
any activity which alters the animal's natural behavior. By
altering the manatee's natural behavior, you may create the
likelihood of danger that is bad for the animal and against the
BEING NEAR MANATEES
Look, but don't touch
manatees. Also, don't feed manatees or give them
water. If manatees become accustomed to being around people, they
can alter their behavior in the wild, perhaps causing them to lose
their natural fear of boats and humans, which may make them more
susceptible to harm. Passive observation is the best way
to interact with manatees and all wildlife.
Do not pursue or chase a manatee if you see one
while you are swimming, snorkeling, diving or operating a boat.
Never poke, prod or stab a manatee with your hands,
feet or any object.
If a manatee avoids you, you should avoid it.
Give manatees space to move. Don't isolate or
single out an individual manatee from its group, and don't separate
a cow and her calf.
Keep hands and objects to yourself. Don't attempt
to snag, hook, hold, grab, pinch or ride a manatee.
Avoid excessive noise and splashing if a manatee
appears in your swimming area.
Use snorkel gear when attempting to watch manatees.
The sound of bubbles from SCUBA gear may cause manatees to leave
Float at the surface of the water to passively
observe the manatees. Remember, look, but don't touch.
Do not enter areas designated as "NO ENTRY-MANATEE
These areas have been identified by the Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service as crucial for manatee survival.
Remember - Look but don't touch
INTERACTIONS WITH HUMANS MAY BE HAZARDOUS
TO THE MANATEE'S WELL BEING.
If you are planning to operate a vessel,
please read our Information for Boaters
manatees - A Florida treasure
Guidelines for boating, diving and snorkeling around