Introducing the Guardian Guides Manatee Stewardship Program!
Snorkelers in Crystal River, Florida observe a manatee from a distance, which is part of The Guardian Guides Manatee Stewardship Program Photo © David Schrichte
Greetings! As you may know, I’ve been associated with the Save the Manatee Club (SMC) in Maitland, Florida for several years now. Well, I have some great news for you! The SMC is now partnering with the Manatee Eco Tourism Association (META). META of Citrus County, Florida “strives to ensure that all human/manatee interaction is conducted in a safe, non-stressful, and considerate manner.” This is extremely important because hundreds of my manatee buddies hang out at Crystal River, Florida in Citrus County – especially in the winter months. Why? Because Crystal River is home to both the naturally warm Three Sister Springs and the Kings Bay Springs. As you probably know from my previous blogs on us manatees, we’re warm-blooded and need water temperatures of at least 68 degree Fahrenheit or higher. If the water we swim in is colder than that, we could easily die of cold stress! Ok – now here’s the awesome news…
My good friend, Dr. Katie Tripp, Director of Science and Conservation at the Save the Manatee Club recently said, “This summer, Save the Manatee Club (SMC) and the Manatee Eco Tourism Association announced a new, jointly-developed initiative – the Guardian Guides Manatee Stewardship Program. The program’s overarching goal is to provide sustainable, world-class ecotourism opportunities for both in-water and on-water visitors to Crystal River and Citrus County, Florida, to promote stewardship of manatees, their aquatic ecosystem, and the surrounding springshed. The program consists of five key principles to which tour operators and their guides must adhere on all of their tours, in addition to abiding by all other local, state, and federal regulations.”
Dr. Tripp further explained that in order for a guide operation to qualify they must…
- “Vary times and locations of their tours to allow manatees to rest undisturbed. This may mean starting tours later in the day or ending them earlier in the day during colder winter months.
- Only allow patrons in-water if they are wearing a wetsuit and have an additional flotation device. Guests and guides must observe manatees passively, not reach out or touch them. Guests and their guides should also maintain a distance of at least one human body length away from manatees when visibility and conditions allow.
- Accompany their guests in-water for all segments of the tour and have no more than 12 guests per guide.
- Prevent overcrowding at viewing sites and help create a high-quality visitor experience while avoiding manatee disturbance.
- Create stewardship among guests and operators/guides since protection of natural resources is a key component of ecotourism.”
If you are in Florida and you see a sick or injured manatee, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: 1-888-404-FWCC. They are the folks who are responsible for rescuing us in Florida.
Here’s the Save the Manatee Club link to learn more about us manatees …
Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …
~ Kobee Manatee