Posted by: realifemermaid | January 23, 2012

Manatee Certification

West Florida is well known for the big, gentle manatees that huddle into the warm waters during the winter time.  January and February is peak season for manatee tourists to come and swim and snorkle with manatees.  Crystal River, where I got certified at the American Pro Dive Center (americanprodive.com) hosts the only place where they have a PADI accedited specialty dive course for safe manatee interaction and snorkel tours for tourists to get up close and personal to manatees. 

Florida law states that it is illegal to harass, surround chase, or ride a manatee, punishable with up to $100,000 fine or up to a year in jail.  It is illegal to go up to a manatee to touch it. 

So.  I think that there is a bit of a grey area with the manatee snorkel and dive course.  No one came up to the manatees.  We “passively observed” and allowed to manatees to come up to us.  Tons of manatees stayed in the sanctuary, where humans were not allowed to enter.  Humans did a good job not entering, as was enforced by a National Parks ranger.  It was pretty cool and unique that manatees and humans could coexist here. 

 I like to think of it as akin to zoos; the more people learn about manatees and got this special experience, the less likely people are goign to tear through a manatee zone on their pontoon or speedboats, and they more likely they are to advocate for their survival.  Services like the ones at Crystal River are working, too:  more and more manatees are surviving every year.  The cost is that their behavior is changing due to human interaction. 

Places like The Floirda Museum in Sarasota is home to Snooty, the oldest manatee in captivity.  People can also learn about manatees by visiting Snooty.  Snooty loves to be pet, and petting Snooty does not alter his behavior or the behavior of those around him. 

The education I received at Crystal River was excellent, but the irony I learned in it all was that YOU SHOULD NOT SNORKEL OR DIVE WITH MANATEES.  I think it is very ironic that I have a certification now that says manatee diver, and I learned that snorkleing with manatees is precarious in only the right conditions, and diving with them?  Absolutely hands off.  Learning about their anatomy, migration patterns, and diet after the snorkel and dive was great also; as a teacher, I love the chance to relax and be the student and learn new information!

Side note….I did get to dive on this trip in the same location as the manatees.  This was my first dive when I went all alone with a group, as my boyfriend/dive partner was getting over being sick.  It was a confidence booster to know I could handle all my equipment without his help or an instructors help, and fun to meet new people.  We went down in a cavern to 50 feet. 

I have pictures from this trip, but they are on an underwater disposable camera that will be developed probably after next weekend…a dive/camp/surf trip in Vero.  Stay tuned!

 

 

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Responses

  1. Sounds like an awesome adventure.

    • It was! That is what has been so awesome about scuba diving…you end up discovering what you are not necessarily seeking out to find.

      Thanks for reading and for the comment. 🙂

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