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Drone video shows Florida boater using pole to harass manatee, scares others

Manatees swim at Blue Springs State Park, Orange City, Florida
Posted at 7:21 AM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 11:17:14-05

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Video posted to a popular outdoor company’s social media page is drawing the ire of Florida residents across the state.

The drone video was posted to the See Through Canoe Facebook page on Sunday and shows a boat with five people aboard drive through an area where multiple manatees are swimming.

The NBC affiliate in Tampa reported the incident occurred near the Gandy Bridge in Pinellas County.

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The video shows one man wearing a red jacket use a long pole to poke and scratch one of the manatees, causing it to become scared and flee the area. Many of the other manatees in the area are startled by the man's actions, prompting them to quickly swim away.

After the encounter, the man who disturbed the sea cow is spotted giving a high-five to another person aboard the vessel.

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“After the boater startled the manatees, the large aggregation of manatees left the area they were resting in just moments before. Most of them eventually came back,” See Through Canoe said in the Facebook post.

See Through Canoe said in their Facebook post that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has been contacted and given the video.

The FWC website said manatees are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. It is illegal to feed, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, annoy or molest manatees.

The state of Florida has also established regulatory speed zones to protect the manatee and its habitat. The zones are located where manatees live or travel regularly or seasonally.

Anyone convicted of violating state law faces maximum fines of $500 and/or imprisonment of up to 60 days. Conviction for violating federal protection laws is punishable by fines up to $100,000 and/or one year in prison.