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Manatee time again

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This discussion is interesting and, as someone who has been doing manatee photography since 1988, I have seen the number of snorkelers increase... As well as the number of manatees present in the area.


I read the new rules/laws carefully and, regarding the so called "no submergence rule", I think that it is applied too strongly.


The rule says that many things are prohibited, including:" Diving from the surface onto resting or feeding manatee(s)".


Pardon my French mother tongue and also the fact that I am not a lawyer, but when I read the word "onto", I understand "right on top", not in front or to the side or at the back. The New Oxford American Dictionnary defines the term as follows: "Moving to a location on..."


I think the intention was to prevent bad behavior by divers who carelessly descend directly over the creature; which makes a lot of sense.


A no submergence rule extends the notion too far from the letter of the law IMHO.


Last year, as I slowly and very carefully sumbmerged to take a picture of a feeding manatee, a volunteer told me that it was "illegal" to do so!


My actions clearly did not disturb the manatee, but I would say that they disturbed the well-intentioned volunteer who did not understand that my goal was to capture a natural behavior in the most respectful way.


We will see how things evolve but I think that, as Alex mentioned, we will have to stop visiting since photographers will not be welcome there.


Having said that, I also think that all this is still something in the making.


My $0,02




PS: Because of the rules I now may have The best manatee picture in my files... Time to go through the image bank.

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As much as I'm on the side of the conservationists some of their rules do seem a bit draconian... it's a shame you won't be able to do this in the future:




Snorkelled into the cave at King Springs & waited for the right moment to come along - I promise no manatees were stresses/harrased in the taking of this photo :P


I think Alex is out there this week so I hope they manage to get some more great stuff again, I know Birds Underwater will look after them really well!

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Yup, my last season up there. Frankly it's BS. Will I get pulled out of the water if a mother and calf are seen to swim around me? Sometimes 'conservationists' are completely misguided in my opinion, and little more than a powerplay by folks who deem themselves to care more than anyone else; because we all know that little baby and the mother are happily back together by now.

There are rules that make sense that truly affect the survival of the species, and others that do not.

As I said earlier, restricting numbers of people, monitoring clear harassment that actually hurts animals, and closure during very cold periods are the only conceivable things that could (and even then I am not sure) affect the survival of these guys. If one were to define what hurts these guys, it's habitat depletion, cold in the winter, boat props, and probably pollution. None of these things is affected in the least by whether a photographer or anyone else sticks their head underwater, or even some of the more blatant harassment - one could argue it's just not nice, but hardly contributing to their survival or not.

The head of conservation management clearly has no concept how important photographs etc are for conservation, and ultimately his job!

:P I hear from next year you have to keep your hands and feet above the water as well, I mean come on what do they think we do with our heads underwater head butt?!. Think they will let me use my polecam?



This is right on. I hope those who consider themselves conservationists (as we photographers in fact are) will limit boat traffic, stop development and protect the habitat. I've yet to see a manatee scarred by a housed SLR or a "submerged" photographer.

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I snorkeled at Crystal River 2 weeks ago and was strongly warned by the tour operator that I'd most likely be issued a ticket by the 'manatee gestapo' if I tried to descend. When I snorkeled there last year it was no problem whatsoever. :( Fortunately, there was no mention of strobes being prohibited.

The manatees were plentiful at Three Sisters, but the vis was really bad. Does high tide usually offer the best clarity in the springs? I'll be returning to CR in about two weeks and I really hope that I don't encounter the same pea soup conditions! Robyn

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Just finished a 4 day trip to Crystal River with a group of (mainly) British photographers. It was highly enjoyable and very productive photographically.


It is certainly true that there are new rules there (mostly rules that were guidelines before) and some real craziness in enforcing them. BUT, none of my group was ever even spoken to by any warden or ranger. In fact, there were more wardens around during my 4 day trip in 2010, than 2011 (maybe something to do with more rain this year!). Although wardens do seem more power crazed from what people say.

Basically, in my experience, if you follow the rules it remains a wonderful experience and you are not hassled.


That said, there is no shortage of examples of people being hauled out of the water and fined, finger printed etc for misdemeanours, some bad, some incredibly minor. I heard of one person who was marched out of the water for just letting the tip of his snorkel dip below the surface!


But I'd like to re-state that none of us had any issues. We had a brilliant time, both photographically and interacting with the playful manatees.


As far as I understand it the main rules to obey are:

1) No submergence - I had no problem with this. Apparently with a photographic licence you can still submerge on the spot, but I didn't feel limited photographically - practice shooting from the hip!

2) Stay away from the roped sanctuary zones

3) Stay away from sleeping manatees

4) Do not separate mothers from calves and do not disturb nursing mothers.

5) One hand only when interacting with manatees (this is all any photographer can manage anyway)

6) Take all these rules seriously.


Strobes are allowed - but I have heard that they will be not be next season (which will be a limitation for certain shots).


In conclusion, if you have being going for years, you will notice a change (and you will have to re-calibrate your expectations). If you have never been before, you are likely to feel most of the rules are sensible. In fact, most of my group was pretty shocked by some of the behaviour they saw and wouldn't be against some stricter enforcement at times.


The other piece of advice I'd give is to go with a operator (I use Birds and highly recommend them). They will make it very clear what you can and cannot do, plus they can be a useful intermediary should you get an over zealous warden (not that we encountered any). If you hire your own boat - make sure all your credentials are in order - because you are more likely to attract attention.



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