Guide accused of harassing manatee
By JIM ROSS
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 1, 2001
HOMOSASSA -- During the weekend, authorities accused a local dive shop guide of harassing a manatee in the Blue Waters section of the Homosassa River.
The guide, Susan Crowley from American Pro Diving Center, could face a fine of up to $500 if found guilty.
The law forbids manatee harassment, but few people in Citrus County have been formally accused of the offense. This might be the first time a professional manatee tour guide has faced prosecution on this charge.
An officer with the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said he observed Crowley chasing a manatee and preventing it from leaving the area about 11:20 a.m. Sunday. He said Crowley was leading a group of divers at the time.
Crowley, a veteran guide who has led countless groups of divers to see manatees, referred questions to her husband, Tom.
An experienced guide himself, Tom Crowley said that although he was not on the boat Sunday, he is certain his wife did nothing wrong.
"She's not going to pay it. We're going to court over it," Crowley said, adding that he has lined up five customers who were aboard the boat Sunday who will swear Mrs. Crowley was not harassing the manatee.
Crowley said the state officer who issued the citation was the same man who visited his business, American River Rendezvous, a lodging facility on the Homosassa River, earlier in the week.
Crowley said the officer wanted to see captain's papers. Crowley, who runs sightseeing tours, complied.
The officer later stopped five boats from American, a company that Crowley once owned, and again requested to see the captains' paperwork.
Authorities and manatee protection advocates try to keep a close eye on the Blue Waters because so many manatees congregate there. The area is just outside the boundaries of the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has discussed creating manatee sanctuaries in that area. Meanwhile, the county is considering creating its own manatee protection rules around the Blue Waters.
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