Manatee Interaction Guide For Kayakers
Passive observation (observing from a distance) is the best way to protect manatees and all wildlife. You actually have the most to gain by remaining at a distance.
By quietly observing manatees, you will get a rare opportunity to see the natural behavior of these unique animals. Interaction should only happen if they come to you. If you see manatees while swimming, diving, or boating, please follow these suggestions:
• Don’t paddle toward them. If they are in your path, gently change direction and give them a wide birth. Observe manatees from the surface of the water and keep a comfortable distance. One important reason for this is that they could be attempting to eat, nurse a calf, or more importantly, come up to breathe.
• Use snorkel gear when attempting to swim with manatees — the sound of scuba gear may cause them to leave the area. “Look, but don’t touch” — Petting or touching may seem like playing with them but they could be swimming to get to the surface for air so avoid contact. Keep your group small so as not to frighten them. Especially don’t “corral” manatees. Many tour groups make this mistake.
• Do not enter designated manatee sanctuaries for any reason. Observe all posted signs and protection zone requirements. Often kayakers, and even swimmers or snorkelers assume that because they are not motorized the signs do not apply to them, but they do!
• Avoid excessive noise and splashing.
• Don’t feed manatees or give them water.
• Read and view the sea grass information to the right…
• Call 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or *FMP or #FWC on your cellular phone, 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.
Manatees are protected by state and federal law. It is illegal to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal. Harassment includes riding, poking, chasing, surrounding or corralling for this or just a photo. Anything that disrupts a manatee’s normal behavior is a violation of law, punishable under federal law up to a $50,000 fine, one-year imprisonment or both.
Contributed by Save the Manatee Club with minor edits by TopKayaker.net and Kayaks and Boards Please read also “Florida’s Winter Manatee Migration”