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AD 2015 Q4

This is the “not do” component. It is also somewhat harder to define. After all, who determines the duty to care and the non-compliance thereto in unique emergency situations? Still, this component is more likely to lead to a recovery of damages. Put differently, when you are under a legal duty to take reasonable care and you do not do it, then you could be held liable for damages that are directly caused by the breach of that duty. The key elements are “reasonable care” and “directly caused”. Let’s break that down, starting with directly caused. This means that the damages are linked directly to the failure to perform the reasonable duty. This is called a causal connection. In other words, there must be a connection between the duty not complied with and the damages. deep diving are so hazardous that it may well be better to only jeopardise the life of one individual rather than two. That is, of course, as long as no one is put at risk during the subsequent body recovery or rescue efforts! Well, as a qualified instructor and dive leader, I shall continue to teach and advocate the buddy system. I do not like the idea of diving alone anyway. I prefer to share the joys of diving with someone able to share the memories of the dive. To me, diving is, and remains, a team sport. Which introduces another consideration: How would the principle of duty to take care be applied to children who dive? Training agencies impose age and depth restrictions on children who enter the sport before the age of 14. Depending on the age and diving course, a child may be required to dive with an instructor or at least another adult dive buddy. If the adult were to get into trouble, the child would not be expected to meet the duty of care of another adult. He/she would be held to an age appropriate standard. What about all those waivers? As mentioned in the previous article, waivers define the boundaries of the self-imposed risk divers are willing to take by requiring that they acknowledge them. Waivers do not remove all the potential claims for negligence and non-compliance with a duty of care. As such, it is left to our courts to ultimately interpret the content of a waiver within the actual context of damage or injury.


WATER PLANET The Status of a Symbol FLORIDA’S MANATEES A manatee hovers peacefully at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. NOTE: Just before this magazine was printed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the existing regulations for viewing manatees at Three Sisters Springs will remain in place for the 2015-16 season. Substantial public response to the draft environmental assessment prevented the adoption of the stricter regulations prior to the beginning of this season. STEPHEN FRINK 108 | FALL 2015

By Allison Vitsky Sallmon, DVM Like many kids who grew up in Florida decades ago, my earliest interactions with manatees just … happened, and they did so quietly with a minimum of fuss. The first “sea cow” I encountered simply snuffled toward me in the St. John’s River while I swam near my parents’ dock. And the last time I traveled to Crystal River (this is where I date myself), it was a serene destination with a tiny dive operation or two, a couple of local hotels and a few snorkelers floating blessedly far apart from one another. Manatees had plenty of room to approach humans — or not — as they foraged in peace. It’s hard to believe that this area and this creature are now the focus of contention. But things change, even in Crystal River. Between 2000 and 2010, Citrus County (which encompasses Crystal River) saw a population increase of more than 19 percent, which undoubtedly included many new residents dreaming of tranquil days on or near the water. Local ecotourism has grown even more. Florida’s manatees gather every winter near freshwater springs and powerplant outflows where the water is warm (a constant 72°F) compared with ocean and air temperatures. Crystal River’s Three Sisters Springs has the greatest freshwater outflow in the area and a correspondingly large wintertime manatee population. Visitors swarm the area to visit the gentle, goofy-looking marine mammals that are a symbol of Florida’s wildlife conservation efforts. Three Sisters drew more than eight times as many visitors in 2013 as in 2006. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reports that on the busiest days the springs can get more than 100 visitors per hour, and a brief Internet search reveals pages of manatee-related activities for sightseers. Snorkeling? Paddleboarding? Kayaking? If it has to do with viewing manatees, people will line up to do it. Manatee protection efforts have been adjusted and expanded over the past several decades to keep up with the influx of humans. Created in 1983 to protect Florida’s endangered West Indian manatees, the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) limits in-water activities at the headwaters of Crystal River. Several winter sanctuaries that ban all human-manatee interaction also have been established. To prevent boat strikes, authorities have lowered speed limits and limited watersports zones. Although “swim-with” manatee permits have been granted to some tour operators, more anti-disturbance rules have been put into place over the years (prohibited activities include pinching and standing on manatees, suggesting that egregious conduct does take place on occasion). Last year Three Sisters Springs implemented additional precautionary measures, including decreased paddlecraft access and the option to close the area to the public during extreme cold fronts. But some recent reports suggest that current guidelines may still fall short. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) conducts statewide aerial surveys to track manatee populations one to three times each year. While the surveys aren’t perfect census tools, they indicate that manatee numbers are on the upswing — from around 1,200 animals counted in 1991 to more than 6,000 in 2015. But in Crystal River the increase in manatee numbers is confined to small areas that are increasingly overrun with people. Well-meaning as most of us may be, realities remain: Local boaters want waterway access, local tour operators want to please tourists, and visitors want to go home having interacted with a manatee. As for what the manatees want, we can assume their primary goals are to eat and survive. Perhaps biology determines the rest. We should consider a key feature of manatees’ sensory systems. Their bodies are covered with vibrissae (tactile hairs), which provide the animals abundant information about their environment from the pressure and movement of water. “Simply put, touch is their ‘super-sense,’” explains Iske Larkin, Ph.D., lecturer at the University of Florida’s Aquatic Animal Health program. Martine de Wit, DVM, of the FWC, concurs, stating, “These are very tactile animals, and the proximity of lots of people may affect them more than we can imagine.” For the manatees, escaping the crowds means moving to colder water. From a nutritional standpoint, manatees exposed to water temperatures below 68°F have much greater caloric needs — up to 50 percent more according to one researcher — than manatees in warmer habitats. Below a certain water temperature, juvenile manatees simply cannot eat enough to survive. Cold stress is particularly hard on young animals. “These animals need to eat almost constantly to maintain their internal temperature, as they cannot hold heat as effectively as adults,” explains Mike Walsh, DVM, co-director of the University of Florida’s Aquatic Animal Health program. “When the springs get crowded, many manatees will just leave. However, young manatees can make bad decisions about when — or whether — to return to warm water.” When water temperatures drop into the 50s (°F), the situation becomes more acutely dangerous. “At this point, manatees get skin lesions that resemble frostbite in humans,” explains Ray Ball, DVM, medical sciences director at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. “Manatee blood vessels are structured in a unique and unforgiving way to begin with, and their blood is very prone to coagulation at cold temperatures.” ALERTDIVER.COM | 109

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