To the editor:
I just read Carolyn Ten Broeck’s article about lining up to pet Manatees. I would like you to inform Ms. Ten Broeck that this behavior of petting Manatees is not one of love, but negligence.
I have a friend that is a vendor in the Kings Bay area and she has told me about visitors harassing the animals, often with more boaters on the waters than manatees who are there seeking refuge from the cold. Even touching a manatee should be avoided at all times.
People often talk about passing on germs among strangers. Do you think that other mammals are not in danger by this behavior?
I’ve included an excerpt from the Savethemanatee website: touching manatees; riding them; poking them; feeding manatees or giving them water; any actions that might separate a mother and calf; chasing manatees; surrounding them
Q. Is it against the law to touch manatees?
A. All of the forms of interactions listed above may be considered harassment under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Manatees are an endangered species, protected under the federal Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act. Conviction on the federal level is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and/or one year in prison. Anyone convicted of violating the state law faces a possible maximum fine of $500 and/or imprisonment for up to 60 days. The state of Florida can also pursue prosecution under federal law. Even more important than breaking the law is that human interactions with manatees can cause harm. Manatees can be observed without violating the provisions of these laws.
Please note this is very important that the public does not assume if you do it it is OK.