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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Introduces New Proposal for Protecting Manatees at Florida’s Three Sisters Springs

Haley McKey, 202-772-0247, hmckey@defenders.org



U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Introduces New Proposal for Protecting Manatees at Florida’s Three Sisters Springs

WASHINGTON (August 7, 2015)– The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has unveiled a proposal that offers bold new options for protecting manatees while they seek shelter from the cold in Florida’s iconic Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River. The alternatives include limiting or prohibiting opportunities to swim with manatees.

Currently there is no limit on the number of swimmers allowed in the spring with the manatees at any one time. This situation results in manatees being harassed or harmed by visitors wanting to interact with them. When they encounter crowds of people, some manatees turn around and head back to colder water, placing them in danger of dying because of increased stress due to the cold.  

At least 500 manatees spent last winter in Three Sisters Spring to take refuge from the cold in its warm waters. Wildlife managers at times counted as many as 100 people in the water with the manatees per hour. If approved, the rules would go into effect each year on November 15th and last until March 31st.

The following is a statement from Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark:

“Florida manatees are an endangered species, and they need our protection and stewardship. This proposal offers new options for protecting manatees when they need to rest without being disturbed.  Manatees need natural springs like Three Sisters to survive the cold of winter, but close quarters and constant interaction with humans can be detrimental. We must remember that manatees, though gentle, are still endangered wild animals and we need to respect and protect them.

“Long overdue and badly needed protective options will benefit manatees and provide visitors superior opportunities to observe them in their natural habitat without the crowding. We look forward to working closely with the Fish and Wildlife Service to secure greater protection for this wonderful and graceful animal.”


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.