When You Swim With Manatees, You Can’t Touch Them… But That Doesn’t Mean They Follow Those Rules!

When divers swim with manatees, the floating potatoes will sometimes steal hugs.

Swimming with manatees is a favorite tourist activity in Florida. Manatees are called sea cows, mermaids, and floating potatoes. They have earned each of these nicknames. Sea cows due to their docile nature and plump, friendly appearance. They are often thought to be what sailors saw when they thought they were seeing pretty women. We haven’t quite figured out that analogy. They picked up the floating potato nickname only recently. After seeing big grayish-brown lumps floating near the shore, someone thought they looked like floating potatoes. As with many things that appear on the internet, it stuck.

Manatee hugging a diver in Florida waters.
Image from TikTok.

Manatees swim in many areas that divers and snorkelers frequent, which causes regular interactions. The snorkeler in the video below got an extended leg hug, and it’s adorable!

It is illegal to touch a manatee, but they can and will hug divers. If a manatee hugs or touches you first, you can reciprocate, but please use caution. Many businesses offering “Swim with manatees” tours have guidelines. They recommend not touching them even when the animals initiate contact. Tour agencies will offer instructions before allowing you to swim with manatees.

Be Aware Of The Laws Protecting Manatees Before You Swim

Federal laws are in place to protect manatees and other marine mammals. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 prohibit hunting, capturing, harassing, or killing any ocean mammal. The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978 explicitly addresses manatees, stating, “It is unlawful for any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb any manatee.” You can see more information by reviewing the Guidelines for Protecting Florida Manatees.

Swimming with manatees can be exciting.
Image from YouTube.

If you have an opportunity to swim with manatees, it can be highly rewarding. Please follow all guidelines provided by the tour agency. They may offer a training video to instruct you about interacting with these gentle giants. Let them hug you, but avoid the urge to hug back!

You can find the source of this story’s featured image here.

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