| A living manatee bears scars from a boat hit.
Watercraft collisions – The crushing impact of a boat’s hull and/or the slashing of its propellers is the leading known cause of manatee injury and death in Florida. In the case of large power vessels and barges moving through shallow waters, manatees may be caught between the vessel and the water bottom, or the vessel and a docking structure, and crushed. Most living manatees also bear scars from these accidental encounters, having been within inches of losing their lives. This can be prevented with watchful, safe boating.
Pollution and litter – Manatees can be injured or killed by entanglement in debris such as monofilament fishing line or crab traps, or by accidental ingestion of litter. Water pollution from pesticides, herbicides, industrial chemicals, or oil spills may poison waterways or food sources that manatees utilize.
Harassment – Harassment refers to any action that causes manatees to change their natural behavior, including touching, feeding, giving water, or separating a mother and calf. These actions can condition manatees to approach people, boats, or dangerous situations, or eat dangerous items. Harassment can also force manatees to leave preferred habitat such as warm water refuges.
Loss of habitat and climate change – Ultimately, loss of habitat is the most serious long-term threat facing manatees and other Florida wildlife today. As human population grows, manatee habitat becomes degraded or eliminated. Manatees are part of an interconnected aquatic ecosystem and are affected by the health of the plants and animals that share this and the surrounding terrestrial ecosystems. Read more about Manatees and Climate Change.
| A manatee showing signs of cold stress.
Cold weather – Manatees cannot tolerate temperatures below 20º C (68º F) for long periods of time, and might suffer from deadly cold stress syndrome with prolonged exposure.
Red tide – Manatees can get sick or die from ingesting seagrasses affected by toxic algal blooms. They can also die from breathing in a concentrated aerosol form of the red tide toxin. Red tide and other harmful algae blooms may be increasing in frequency and duration due to human-caused contamination and climate change.
Perinatal – Unfortunately, when manatee calves die around the time of birth, it limits scientists’ ability to determine cause of death.
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 surround and pursue a manatee, which is considered harassment.
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.
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.
• 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”.
• 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
• “Manatee Manners” Videos for Swimmers, Photographers, Boaters, and Paddlers
• Manatee Homepage
• 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
• 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.