Manatee Defense Workshop 2012

Annual Manatee Defense Workshop & Eco-Adventure

Manatees are very curious

Respectful interaction with a manatee calf

For an excellent overview of this workshop, our philosophy on eco-tourism and manatee conservation, please see the article “Beautiful Sirens: The Lure of Florida’s Manatees and the Reality of Eco-Tourism” in Living Green Magazine. This is the ORIGINAL manatee workshop, operating in the area, yearly, since 2009.

Where: Renovated, private old-Florida plantation, Inverness FL and Crystal River, FL

Dates: Late January to early February (specific dates TBD)

Leader: Samantha Whitcraft, Director – The Selkie Society and Harvard-trained conservation biologist

Staff: Professional photographer, boat captain, and vegetarian cook

Speakers: Local advocates, manatee rescue volunteers and biologists

Attendees: This workshop is designed for adults and children 8+ years old who want to learn about how to combine field work and respectful wildlife interactions with community advocacy for wildlife. The only requirements are the ability to swim and a sense of adventure. This will be a small, intimate group of 12 maximum.


(Thurs) Day 1: PM – Arrive at our private plantation, orientation, vegetarian dinner; optional nature walk on the extensive grounds and to the lake.

(Fri) Day 2:  AM – Snorkel with manatees, Crystal River; PM – vegetarian dinner and seminar “What is responsible Eco-tourism?” by Samantha Whitcraft

(Sat) Day 3: AM – Snorkel with manatees and data collection, Crystal River; PM – vegetarian dinner and  Community Night Party with local advocates, wildlife biologist, and citizens.

(Sun) Day 4: AM/PM – Homosassa Springs State Park – manatee rescue/rehab or canoe trip on the beautiful Rainbow River; PM – vegetarian dinner and optional, night-time, guided nature walk.

(Mon) Day 5: AM- Workshop summary and departures

Cost: $850 pp double occupancy includes all vegetarian meals, accommodations, boat(s) and park fees. $600 pp double occupancy for college students; $500 for high school students. [class projects/extra credit welcome]

(Does not include beer/wine, snorkel equipment or airfare/airport transfers)

**A percentage of profits goes to fund marine conservation and community education-outreach in South Florida.


For more information and to reserve a spot please contact Samantha Whitcraft at


Picture highlights from past Manatee Defense Workshops…

Beautiful manatee habitat, Crystal River FL

The beautiful manatees of Crystal River

Canoeing on the Rainbow River, FL

Private plantation houses; our accomodations

100's of acres to explore

Community Night!


For more pictures, visit our facebook page at:

Join us! Email Samantha Whitcraft at to reserve your spot.


See fish, not seafood…

Here at THE SELKIE SOCIETY we’ve always believed that one of the most effective actions you can take as an ocean advocate is to stop eating commercially caught fish.

We applaud Blue Planet Society for their recent blog entitled Sustainable commercial fishing is a myth…

Marine Stewardship Council logo

Sustainable seafood is 'blue-washing' for commercial a myth.

“To claim that fishing on a commercial scale for any wild species of marine animal is sustainable is at best optimistic and at worse misleading. There is NO accurate way of measuring the stock of a commercial species and in most cases scientific data provided by Governments will err on the side of optimism.

The links below provide three different sources of information about the ‘sustainability’ of Atlantic swordfish. If you take time to absorb the information you will realize that, whilst well meaning, it is inaccurate, confusing, and smacks of guesswork.

FishONLINE – Advanced Research


Seafood Watch

Sustainability is the current buzzword, but to truly ensure that a wild species will survive, refuse to eat it.”


Samantha Whitcraft

Societal Values Should Be Included in Endangered Species Decisions

American Gray Wolf

American Gray Wolf (Credit: iStockphoto)

Preface: Why is THE SELKIE SOCIETY interested in wolf conservation? Because the story of the American wolf is the story of the Africa lion and the story of the Antarctic sperm whale and the story of large coastal sharks everywhere — the story of human persecution of top predators. Until we recognize, address, and end our irrational fear of these vital species, our ecosystems, our lives, and our children’s future will suffer.

So please read, and share with your friends, family, and community the value and importance of  our wild populations of apex predators, on land or in the sea. ~~~~~ ~ Samantha Whitcraft, Conservation Biologist


ScienceDaily (Dec. 6, 2010) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is excluding significant research findings about human threats to protected species, researchers argue, even when the law governing the agency’s actions requires the use of all relevant data in determining whether species need protection from extinction.

A group of scientists, led by Jeremy Bruskotter of Ohio State University, argue in the December issue of the journal BioScience that research about societal values should be considered along with biological and ecological data in listing decisions.

The Endangered Species Act requires the secretary of the interior to make decisions about listing species “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.” The researchers use the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2009 decision to remove gray wolves from endangered species protections to demonstrate how social science data can be used to inform species listing decisions.

In the case of the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains, public opinion about wolves varies considerably among livestock owners, hunters and wildlife conservationists. But social science research about those opinions was essentially disregarded when the Fish and Wildlife Service removed wolves in the northern Rockies from Endangered Species Act protections in 2009, the scientists assert.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t use the data as required by law and they need to start doing this, especially when a species is so clearly subject to human-caused threats,” said Bruskotter, an assistant professor in Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources. “There is a lot of theory and data in the social science literature that could assist the Fish and Wildlife Service in evaluating human threats. What is holding them back is the agency’s myopic focus on biological data.”

That delisting decision was recently reversed by a federal court for reasons unrelated to the data used in the agency’s ruling.

Under the Endangered Species Act, federal officials must decide whether a species is threatened with or in danger of extinction as a result of any of five “listing factors” that relate to changes to the habitat, disease and predation, or overuse of the species for commercial, recreation, scientific or educational purposes. Those include “other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.”

When the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population was delisted in April 2009, the Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged in its ruling that “human-caused mortality” nearly destroyed the species in the 1930s. However, the agency argued that “attitudes toward wolves have improved greatly over the past 30 years.”

In an extensive review of the research associated with the gray wolf delisting, which contained more than 200 citations, the Fish and Wildlife Service included a single 2002 study that examined public attitudes toward wolves.

“This is not for a lack of literature on the topic,” Bruskotter said, noting that studies on attitudes about wolves date as far back as the 1970s.

Bruskotter and colleagues summarized four key arguments made by the Fish and Wildlife Service in its decision that the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf is no longer threatened or endangered as follows:

  • Human attitudes are a potential threat to wolves because humans killing wolves initially decimated the species;
  • The threat posed by humans has lessened substantially because public attitudes have improved in recent decades;
  • State management of wolves will foster local support of wolves and wolf recovery; and
  • Existing state regulatory mechanisms will “balance negative attitudes” and ensure recovery.

He and colleagues then analyzed social science research related to each of the agency’s arguments to determine whether the Fish and Wildlife Service gave adequate consideration to available social science data in its assessment.

In the few studies that have evaluated attitudes about wolves over time, Bruskotter and colleagues noted that findings are mixed on the subject. And the only study cited by the Fish and Wildlife Service in its ruling concluded that attitudes about wolves had been “stable over the last 30 years,” which contradicts the agency’s own contention that attitudes had improved over this time period.

A news media content analysis that Bruskotter co-authored, published in September, suggests that public discourse about wolves in the United States and Canada became increasingly negative from 1999 to 2008, and, according to Bruskotter, subsequent analyses suggested coverage in the northern Rockies was more negative than in any other region.

Under the Endangered Species Act, federal agencies monitor species for at least five years after they are delisted, but state wildlife agencies take over management. While the Fish and Wildlife Service suggested that returning wolves to state management would foster support for the wolves, an Idaho survey cited by Bruskotter suggests powerful stakeholders in the state — big game hunters and livestock producers — “are motivated to kill as many wolves as possible without returning wolves to federal protections,” according to the researchers.

Finally, the researchers question state managers’ ability to “balance negative attitudes” about wolves when state legislatures that exert authority over wildlife management have “evidenced clear hostility toward wolves,” Bruskotter said. They cited several recent legislative actions by states in the northern Rockies that call for the removal of wolves.

The researchers conclude that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s analysis about threats to wolves was guided by three faulty assumptions: that attitudes toward wolves are improving; that management of wolves by state agencies will foster support for wolves; and that the existing state regulations used as justification for withdrawing federal protection will persist under mounting pressure from powerful interest groups to reduce wolf populations.

Beyond wolves, however, there are other human factors at play.

“Risks that relate to humans range from direct killing of animals to a municipality encouraging development in areas where species are sensitive,” Bruskotter said. “The Fish and Wildlife Service will look at direct impacts, or the proximate cause of species decline. They don’t often step back and consider what lies behind those causes. And that’s one of the things we’re saying they need to do.”

The researchers noted that they are not suggesting that the Fish and Wildlife Service should cede control of decisions to “public whims,” but instead say they advocate for the use of information about values and attitudes of affected human populations to inform policy decisions.

That said, however, they assert that human attitudes may be as critical to some species’ sustained recovery as biological factors such as species population size, birth rates and reproductive success.

Bruskotter also noted that he sympathizes with the Fish and Wildlife Service because it is “hammered from every angle. This is not a condemnation of their action. It’s meant to be forward thinking — to provide a roadmap for how to incorporate social science information into future endangered species decisions.”

The researchers conclude, “It is time for the Fish and Wildlife Service to expand its view of what constitutes ‘science’ and fully incorporate the social sciences into listing decisions.”

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Ohio State University. The original article was written by Emily Caldwell.

Journal Reference:

  1. Jeremy T. Bruskotter, Eric Toman, Sherry A. Enzler, and Robert H. Schmidt. Are Gray Wolves Endangered in the Northern Rocky Mountains? A Role for Social Science in Listing Determinations. BioScience, December 2010

New Aquarium in Miami – questions and concerns



November 22, 2010

Dear Commissioners of Sunny Isles Beach,
Miami-Dade County;

After reading the project feasibility study in its entirety, we have some concerns.

We are happy to help make this potential aquarium project one that SIB can be truly proud of; one that promotes education about our local ecosystems here in Florida – the Everglades, the Florida Keys coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass beds rather than exotic  habitats and animals (that market is surely saturated by places like Jungle Island, Miami SeaQuarium, Monkey Jungle, and Miami Metro Zoo). In terms of promoting the local ecology, there are successful and laudable examples:

Robins Nature and Visitor Center at Maymont, Richmond, VA
A Regional Watershed Exploration

Sturgeon City Environmental Educational Center, Jacksonville, NC
Reclaim, Re-Use, and Restore

River Center, Loxahatchee River District, Jupiter, FL

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Homosassa, FL

Sunny Isles Beach and the developers 4M Investors, LLC could help set a national standard by having an aquarium that promotes conservation by housing local charismatic megafauna – manatees, alligators, crocodiles, rays, sharks (as their ‘big ticket’ draw) – for rescue, rehabilitation and release, only. And by doing so, potentially work closely with The State and National Parks to cross-promote with tourists coming to the area.

Additionally, reputable aquaria are moving away from the old paradigms of ‘animals as entertainment’ (i.e. dolphin and sea lion shows, shark feedings, and penguin parades) because the educational value of these attractions is questionable; and away from unnecessary handling of animals – petting grounds and touch tanks, due to potentially high mortality and thus replacement rate of the animals. Responsible aquaria that do still have such exhibits severally limit the amount of interaction with vertebrate or soft-bodied animals, allow instead for supervised, limited interaction with invertebrates such as sea stars, hermit crabs, and other shelled animals.

We were, however, encouraged to see that the feasibility study did include proposed Inter-Coastal Waterway and ocean tours and snorkel trips; the perfect way to enjoy and educate about the our local waters, by spending time on them!

South Florida has had a sad history in terms of its marine parks and aquaria and this may be an opportunity to change that, to show that our communities treasure and respect our oceans and wildlife.

We look forward to future opportunities to help move this project in a positive direction for everyone.

The Selkie Society