Manatee Protection.Com
Dedicated to presenting the truth about
the manatee/human interaction controversy
and promoting true ecotourism as a
business ethic and not simply a marketing
Why are We Doing This?

Simply put, we despise hypocrisy and misleading claims. There
are some swim with the manatee programs advertising
education and claiming that they care so much for manatees,
yet arguing that they have to be able to let clients pet them or
they won't have any business..They would lead you to believe
that if it weren't for the manatee petting zoo that is sometimes
Kings Bay, nobody would want to protect manatees.

The promotion of the accepted standard (passive observation)
for interacting with wild animals worldwide, is actually now
required as a condition of commercial operator's permit for the
Crystal River NWR.  If you choose to swim with manatees and
your guide advises you otherwise (ie: they like a good scratch or
they like their bellies rubbed), please report the violation to
USFWS at 352-563-2088 or e-mail
Ivan Vicentes

The simplest method of reducing harassment is to enforce the
number one rule in the existing
FWCC Guidelines which states "
Look, but don't touch manatees
."  It continues on to say "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."

Why is the touching such an issue?  Members of the
industry claim that if they can't let their clients pet manatees,
they stand to lose 30% of their business.  Apparently they do
not give their clients much credit.  If you are truly educating
them, it should be a simple process to explain why it is not in the
manatee's best interests. If one looks at other successful animal
encounter industries like whale watching, there is no swimming
allowed and certainly no petting, yet these programs are
incredibly successful and generate billions in revenues for both
the operators and the local economies.

The reality is that there are already a number of tame
manatees in the area and contact will continue.  It should not be
reinforced and new animals should not be conditioned to accept
a human presence without caution. As custodians for the
manatee in Citrus County, the USFWS must assure their long
term health and safety by limiting physical contact through some
form of no touch rule.  The manatee tour industry must step up,
acknowledge the problem, and deal with it constructively.

Misinformation and hysterical predictions of economic doom are
not the way to go about it.

PADI ( Professional Association of Diving Instructors), an
international certifying body for the dive industry, funded a
brochure about swimming with manatees entitled: "If You Love
Us Please Don't Touch Us". Download that brochure from the
link list to the right.

The City of Crystal River has taken the first step by
recommending to USFWS several actions they think need to be
taken, including implementing a no touch rule. It is encouraging
to see the City take these progressive steps towards being as
serious ecotourism destination.   
See Council Minutes Here

The following is a link to an article from a dive industry trade
show.  It puts some Crystal River Tour Operators in a very bad
light.  One can only hope that the rest of the industry wises up.  
This is the kind of behavior that will kill the industry.

Our World Underwater Show Chicago 2008

Here is an excerpt:

"We're reporting live from the floor of the Our World
Underwater show in Chicago, where we are presenting the
winners of the 3rd annual Wetpixel & DivePhotoGuide
International Underwater Photography & Video Competition
this weekend.........

........everyone is talking about Mark Santa Maria's winning
Conservation video  of Manatees being harassed by
dive/snorkel operators in Crystal River Florida. It is a very
well done piece, and documents the despicable behavior of
local operators willing to illegally harass manatees, even
separating mother from calf, just to ensure that their
customers have an encounter. As divers, we should all
understand that interacting with marine life is a privilege
and not a right. We are helping Mark send this footage to
the proper authorities and we will be following up with a
feature article from Mark about this situation within the
next several weeks."

What was not reported is that the operators attempted to
intimidate the photographer by threatening to report him as a
child predator since some of the customers being filmed were

These tactics have no place in our business community.  This is
not what Citrus County is about, but it is the actions for which we
will be remembered.
In the interest of full disclosure, one of the authors of this site, Matt Clemons has served as a board member of Save
the Manatee and runs their Do Not Disturb member tours. He has also been presented with a Manatee Hero award by
SMC for his advocacy for the manatee. Matt has a degree in Wildlife Conservation from the University of Florida. He
has also served with FMRI (now a part of FWCC) as a manatee biologist, served on the Citrus County EcoTourism
Committee and sat on the Manatee Advisory Committee of Citrus County. He instructed a portion of the University of
North Florida's EcoHeritage Guide Certification Program entitled "Environmental Ethics and Sustainability". He now runs
ecotours including manatee observation programs.

This site in no way reflects the views or positions of Save the Manatee.
Copyright © 2007, All rights reserved.
"Enjoy your travels in this great land
of ours, and remember, it’s our
responsibility to keep wildlife wild."

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf
U.S. Army, Retired
Those who wish to pet and baby wild
animals "love" them. But those who
respect their natures and
wish to let them live normal lives, love
them more." (Edwin Way Teale)
  • I pledge to adhere to the philosophy of passive observation at all times.

  • I pledge to look at, but not touch manatees.

  • I pledge to never feed or water manatees.

  • I pledge never to pursue or chase a manatee.

  • I pledge to never intentionally or negligently harm a manatee.

  • I pledge never to poke, prod or stab or attempt to pet a manatee.

  • I pledge never to isolate or single out an individual manatee from its
    group, and or separate a cow and her calf.

  • I pledge to never attempt to ride a manatee.

  • I promise always to keep the wild in wild animals.
Take the Manatee Watchers' Pledge
Guest / Guide Interaction   -    A Letter from a Guest

Dear Matt,

We just wanted to send a quick e-mail to say “thank you” again for the
wonderful kayaking and hiking tours. Our close encounters with the manatees
were just magical, and we could enjoy them all the more for knowing we were
doing no harm. And we thoroughly enjoyed the informative introduction you
gave us to so many of the habitats, plants and animals that are native to the
Crystal Springs area. We wouldn’t have noticed or appreciated a fraction of
what we did if we had just wandered around on our own, so we really appreciate
your generous sharing of your knowledge. Particular highlights for us were the
bald eagles, the kingfishers, the turtle, the butterflies, colourful crickets and the
impressive spiders’ webs – the list could go on!

We have been enthusing about our tours with Aadvark to our friends and will
definitely recommend them to anyone we know who is heading in your direction.

Please find a few digital snaps attached. The little waterproof camera film is still
to be developed, but we’ll send pics on!


Vikki and Cameron
(Aberdeen, Scotland, UK)

NOTE:  The tours referenced are no touch kayak tours.
We are proposing that the above signs be
placed at all access points to Kings Bay
including all city and county ramps, and city
parks. If you'd like to help sponsor one of the
above signs, please e-mail us at: