National Wildlife Refuge System

It’s the Manatees’ World

Crystal River, FL, has been called the manatee capital of the United States.
Credit: Paul Nicklen/National Geographic
Crystal River Refuge manager Michael Lusk displays new kiosks that are posted at 13 entrances to Kings Bay, providing information about manatees and guidelines for swimming near them.
Credit: Ivan Vicente/USFWS

At times, more than 250 manatees crowd into the narrow canal alongside Three Sisters Springs at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, “while dozens of kayaks and scores of swimmers surround them and 20 or more tour boats lie anchored in the canal.” A new article in National Geographic magazine explores the challenges of responding to the economics of tourism while protecting this endangered mammal.

Although manatee season is November 1 – March 31 – when the manatees seek the warmth of springs at Three Sisters or Kings Bay – the refuge is just as busy in off-season. New kiosks with refuge and manatee information are being installed at 13 public and private entrances to Kings Bay.  A new Manatee Manners video is expected to be ready for manatee season 2013, offering guidelines for swimmers, boaters, kayakers and photographers. New visitor center displays are also being prepared to give visitors more information about manatees as well as the do’s and don’ts of swimming with them.

In 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reduced the size of a high-speed sports zone used by pleasure boats and cut the speed limit from 35 to 25 miles an hour.  Other actions to improve protections for manatees in Citrus County included establishment a year-round manatee protected area in Kings Bay, which hosts the largest natural concentration of manatees in Florida.

“There’s no other place like Kings Bay,” refuge manager Michael Lusk told National Geographic. “I’d like to find that place where we can allow people to interact with manatees and have that powerful experience, but manage it so that manatees are protected and safe. And I think we can find that.”

National Geographic article

Florida Manatee Issues and Information

Last updated: May 7, 2013