Everyone Is Talking Manatee

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New manatee arrivals, new spring closures to protect the species and new rules intended to help control crowds has everyone talking, including this pair of manatees in deep conversation.

Two Manatees Seem To Be Discussing All The Changes Proposed At Three Sisters Springs. From December 9, 2014, Three Sisters Springs.

Two manatees, talking, whiskers, snouts

I promised photographs of recent manatee arrivals and here are several from December and one from November 2014.

Some lovely periods of blue-green spring water have graced the haunting view of manatees underwater. I particularly liked this one as the highlights of the shot are the manatee, sun rays and the mesmerizing springs.

A Manatee Swims Peacefully Over The Warm Springs On December 1, 2014. 

Manatee, swimming, springs, Three Sisters Springs, Florida,

I love light in the springs when it highlights underwater cypress tree roots, and showcases a mother manatee with her curious calf.

Mother Manatee Navigates By Cypress Tree Roots While Her Calf Looks Up Curiously. December 4, 2014.

Mom and Baby Manatees, cypress tree roots, sun rays,

There is lots of talk going around about the recent closure of Three Sisters Springs due to cold conditions. Also, tomorrow there will be new proposed restrictions proposed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service which manages the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. I will include information and links below of what I know right now, but first let’s enjoy a couple of more adorable manatees who recently arrived.

Capt. Stacy Dunn Floats Quietly While A Young Male Manatee Calf Checks Out The Interesting Life At The Surface, December 4, 2014.

Manatee calf, snorkeler, passive observation, Three Sisters Springs

Sometimes when things get too serious and I need some cheering up, manatee whiskers and a snout with a rainbow on it is just the ticket!

Manatee Sports Handsome Whiskers And  Rainbow Light On Its “Snozola”. Now Doesn’t That Make You Feel Better? November 20, 2014.

Manatee, snout, whiskers, rainbow sun rays,

OK, now for the two extant issues: First of all there was quite a bit of cold weather recently which led to many manatees gathering at Three Sisters Springs and compromised visibility. Here is a copy of the News Release from Friday, December 12, 2014.

News Release from December 12, 2014 regarding the temporary closure of Three Sisters Springs

I expect the springs to be reopened either tomorrow, Monday the 15th or Tuesday the 16th.

Now for the second existing issue: The Environmental Assessment conducted by US Fish and Wildlife Service and their new rules/recommendations for manatee viewing at Three Sisters Springs. The article below is from the Citrus County Chronicle with an overview of the new restrictions. The full data will be revealed tomorrow, Monday, December 15th at 11am at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Office. I will receive an emailed outline of the whole plan so many of our questions will be answered. Remember there IS a fourteen-day comment period, so nothing is set in stone. Exercise your right to have a say! I certainly will!

http://m.chronicleonline.com/citruscounty/db_316600/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=wmlNiVtR

New rules at Three Sisters Springs

Dec 13, 2014 05:45 PM

CRYSTAL RIVER — Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge officials are set to announce plans Monday ostensibly aimed at dissuading the harassment of manatees at a popular springs area.

The long-anticipated environmental assessment (EA) is expected to recommend the prohibition of vessels and large inflatable floats in the springs and spring run areas of Three Sisters Springs during the winter tourist season when the area is usually teeming with huge herds of sea cows and people.

Swimmers will still be allowed into the springs and spring run areas, but only between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. 

It is expected that this will allow manatees time to rest during the colder periods of the morning and late afternoon/early evening. 

Refuge officials have already installed a paddle vessel tie-up area east of the springs entrance at the 57-acre property. They also have installed lines for swimmers to use along the spring run sides, leading into Three Sisters Springs. This is intended to keep an open channel for manatee movement and for the ease of swimmers to pull themselves along.

Other recommendations include the following:

 Closure to visitor entry of two lobes within the springs that are most used by manatees.

 Requiring a special-use permit for the use of flash photography for educational or research purposes inside Three Sisters Springs. 

 Amending current special-use permit conditions for tour operators, requiring a city of Crystal River business license or letter of exemption, in-water insurance for clients, and requiring a guide to accompany visitors into the springs.

The comment period on these proposed measures will be open for two weeks. The draft EA will be emailed to a list of stakeholders and posted on the refuge website at www.fws.gov/crystalriver/. Refuge Manager Andrew Gude will be unveiling details of the plan at the refuge complex at 11 a.m. on Monday.

Gude, who took over as manager of the refuge earlier this year, has repeatedly expressed concern about the interaction of visitors and manatees, especially in the springs area where he says the manatees often flock to rest and avoid the ever-increasing numbers of tourists visiting the area.

This past summer, Gude said he feels the scope and scale of visitor pressure in the springs is unsustainable and that the crowding conditions could potentially affect manatee behavior, which runs counter to federal statutes and regulations that he is charged to adhere to. Gude also launched a community-driven suggestions campaign to address the overcrowding issue.

Gude said he wanted a local solution to the overcrowding situation and not one imposed from outside, such as through a court mandate.

Last year, the city’s Waterfronts Advisory Board working group came up with a list of recommendations to reduce overcrowding and unsavory behavior in the water entrance area of the springs. Some of those recommendations have been implemented, including the establishment of the kayak mooring area and a ban on alcohol in the area.

This winter, the property’s land access was opened to public access via a local tour operator, River Ventures, which shuttles people to a boardwalk to view the manatees.

Federal laws specifically forbid the disturbance of manatees by in-water recreation. 

Three Sisters Springs is renowned for being the place swimmers and snorkelers can swim with the gentle sea cows.

Contact Chronicle reporter A.B. Sidibe at 352-564-2925 or asidibe@chronicleonline.com.

All right, there is the data I have at this moment. When the full rule is released tomorrow I will post about it on my Facebook Page Link Here. Or find it on the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Website.

Best, Carol