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MANATEE - Manatee Rules and Regulations

Manatee Rules and Regulations

Florida manatees and swimmers at Homosassa Springs, Florida - before the sanctuary was enlarged to also include this area at the mouth of the spring.

The following rules and regulations have been put in place to help protect the manatee and their natural environment. Failure to heed these regulations will result in you being fined or arrested by local, state, and/or federal authorities. It is entirely possible to have a fantastic manatee encounter within these regulations:

  • Do NOT enter designated/posted sanctuaries for any reason!
  • Do NOT pursue/chase (swimming after) or corner a manatee while swimming or diving. This includes following manatees for any reason.
  • Do NOT disturb a resting manatee. Sleeping manatees sometimes rest in a "face-plant" on the river bottom, rising for air every few minutes. It is unlawful to interfere with these normal activities.
  • Do NOT attempt to feed the manatees or give them water. Doing so may make the manatee associate food and water with humans, endangering the manatee.
  • Do NOT attempt to ride, poke, prod, or grab the manatee at any time with any object including your hand or foot.
  • Do NOT attempt to single out or surround a manatee.
  • Do NOT attempt to separate a calf from it's mother, or any manatee from a group of manatees.

Manatees are protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which make it illegal to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal.

Manatees are also protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. Anyone convicted of violating this state law faces a possible maximum fine of $500.00 and/or imprisonment for up to 60 days. Conviction on the federal level is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and/or one year in prison. Feeding manatees, giving them water, or otherwise altering their natural behavior can be considered harassment.

It is a second degree misdemeanor to intentionally discard any monofilament fishing line or monofilament netting into or onto the waters of the state of Florida.

Following are some unwritten rules that will make your manatee encounter more enjoyable for everyone involved :

  • Do enter the water quietly and move around without splashing or making noise. Sometimes sudden noises and movements will frighten a manatee who will most likely swim away. SCUBA gear is not recommended for manatee encounters, as the noise of rushing air normally frightens them away.
  • Do wait for the manatee to show an interest in you before approaching it. Manatees are normally curious, and if you stay still, floating on the surface - they will normally approach you to initiate the contact.
  • Do keep you feet off the bottom of the river if it is shallow enough to touch. Keeping your feet off the bottom will keep down the sediment, which will interfere with viewing and photographing the manatee.
  • Do remember that the manatee is in charge of the encounter. If a manatee is sleeping or is not interested in making contact, leave it alone, as your only encounter would probably be seeing it's tail disappear ahead of you as it swims away into a sanctuary.
Call the Wildlife Alert Hotline 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or *FWC/#FWC, or use VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio if you see an injured, dead, tagged, or orphaned manatee, or if you see a manatee being harassed.
Selected by Science Educators from NSTA Sirenian International
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