Stand-Up Paddleboard with Manatees
1. State FHWC Rules
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has specific safety guidelines for SUPing in areas near manatees. The FWC refers to such individuals as "threats" when humans observe them. To prevent unnecessary disturbance, the following rules and regulations must be followed: A person may not pursue, harass, harm, or kill a manatee. A person may not ride in a position that causes the watercraft to strike or become entangled with a manatee.
2. State Laws and Regulations
Manatees are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. It is illegal to remove or disturb a manatee from its natural habitat, harass or kill a manatee, or feed the manatee in Florida waters (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission). A valid driver's license can operate a paddleboard on any private property. The same is true for many public waterways, including rivers, lakes, and canals, marked as navigable by federal and state agencies (International Stand up Paddle Association).
3. Where They Live
As for their range is still being determined precisely where Florida's manatee population lives, but several locations in the state have been discovered as important areas to study this endangered species. Some popular sites include Crystal River, Upper Tampa Bay, Caloosahatchee, and Miami, Fl. (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission). The Crystal River is one of the premier locations, with up to 500 manatees per day in season (Florida Manatee Association). This area is a favorite because it offers an adequate food supply, and there are minimal disturbances—one of the most popular local spots in Crystal River in Citrus County. Crystal River is home to several natural springs that feed into Kings Bay which encompasses 2,300 acres of protected waters with healthy vegetation (Crystal Watersports).
The main concern for the manatees is the protection of their habitat and food supply. The most popular areas for the manatee are protected waterways to prevent human disturbance. There is also a good chance that you'll experience SUPing with manatees alongside some of Florida's best kayaking, caving, and hiking sites (The Manatee Caves).