After getting caught on video messing with a manatee a Florida charter captain is being investigated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Shallow Point Fishing Charters captain David Beede told the Tampa Bay Times that he was “helping” the manatee, but drone footage shows him scraping a manatee’s back with a fishing pole and then high fiving someone after the startled manatee scrambled away with the rest of the manatee aggregation.
The manatee is a threatened species and protected by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, making it “illegal to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal.” Manatees are also protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978, which makes it illegal “for any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb any manatee."
Beede also told the Tampa Bay Times he “turned off the engine and floated in,” although the footage shows him motoring into the aggregation of manatees, causing some of them to scramble away.
The drone footage was recorded by See Through Canoe, a builder of transparent canoes, and posted to Facebook. At the end of the video, the videographer explains he wanted to record the manatees and only shared the footage with Florida Fish and Wildlife after he saw Beede messing with the manatees and then tried to bring down the drone by casting at it with a fishing pole.
Meanwhile, Beede is catching the wrath of the internet and says he is receiving death threats. A few people have come to his defense, but the great majority are calling for him to lose his license and worse.
If charged and convicted, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Beede could face a fine of up to $100,000 and a year in jail.
You can read more on the Tampa Bay Times website.