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Human-Caused Threats
A living manatee bears scars from a boat hit.
 A living manatee bears scars from a boat hit. 

 A manatee showing signs of cold stress.

Natural Threats

You can help be a steward for manatees as a Guardian Guide program participant. Practice manatee-safe operating guidelines, help your visitors learn more about manatees, and inspire them to appreciate and protect this imperiled species.

 Swimmers harass manatee
Swimmers surround and pursue a manatee, which is considered harassment.

Manatee Protection Laws

Federal Laws:

Marine Mammal Protection Act – Prohibits the “taking” of any marine mammal species in U.S. waters. The term “take” means to harass, hunt, capture, kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal. The term “harass” means any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance, which has the potential to injure a marine mammal or disturb a marine mammal by causing disruption of behavior patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.

Endangered Species Act – Protects endangered and threatened species and their habitats by prohibiting the “take” of listed animals and prohibiting federal actions that are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or adversely modify designated critical habitats.

State Law:

The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act – Extends protections to the manatee in the state of Florida, declared a refuge and sanctuary for the manatee, independent of its status as a state or federal listed species.



Manatees swimming near seagrass

From Save the Manatee Club:

• Guardian Guides Presentation and Notes (pdf) 

• Manatee Facts & FAQs 

• Manatee Protection Tips for Boaters 

Manatee Protection Tips for Swimmers and Divers

Manatee News: Updated Weekly – Includes opinion articles on the 2017 reclassification from “endangered” to “threatened”. 

From the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC):

Manatee Viewing Guidelines 

• Florida Manatee Program 

Information for Boat, PWC, & Paddle-Sport Operators including Manatee Protection Zones and Speed Zone Maps. 

Manatee Rescue and Mortality Statistics: Updated Monthly

From the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:

• “Manatee Manners” Videos for Swimmers, Photographers, Boaters, and Paddlers 

Manatee Homepage

Other Resources:

• Manatees Chew Rope Video: The use of rope to attract manatees to boats for the entertainment of customers often has devastating results.

• Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) – About the MRP, Updates on tagged manatees 

Florida Springs Council – Conserving Florida’s springs 

Free the Ocklawaha – Restoring the Ocklawaha River and manatee habitat

Research Articles – Free PDFs or Full-Text Available:

• Ballantyne, Roy & Packer, Jan & Hughes, Karen. (2009). Tourists' support for conservation messages and sustainable management practices in wildlife tourism experiences. Tourism Management. 30. 658-664. 10.1016/j.tourman.2008.11.003. 
– Research on the preference of tourists suggests that tours following best management practices and sharing conservation messages are more successful in meeting the needs of tourists and wildlife. 

• Zeppel, Heather. (2008). Zeppel, H. & Muloin, S. (2008). Conservation Benefits of Interpretation on Marine Wildlife Tours. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 13, 280-294. Human Dimensions of Wildlife. 13. 280-294.
– Marine wildlife interpretation programs on tours can influence visitor attitudes and foster conservation appreciation and action by tourists. 

• Lewis, Sophie, Walker, Dylan. (2018). Global Best Practice Guidance For Responsible Whale and Dolphin Watching
– A guide by the World Cetacean Alliance with support from Club Med.
– Guide from the World Cetacean Alliance on sustainable tour operations around whales and dolphins. Certain principles and research could be applied to manatee tours. Interesting read.

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