PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has launched an investigation into an incident between a boater and a manatee that happened off the Pinellas County coast over the weekend and was captured on drone video.
- Incident happened at about 11 a.m. Saturday
- Video was posted Sunday on social media platforms
- It's illegal to molest, harass, disturb or touch manatee with an object
The video shows a white boat come up on a herd of manatees near Weedon Island, at about 11 a.m., on Saturday. As the manatees float by the boat, a man wearing an orange jacket can be seen using a pole to scratch the back of a sea cow. That contact startles the herd and the manatees immediately flip their powerful tails and dive near the boat.
Moments later, the man in orange gives another man on the boat a high-five. The video then shows the drone move closer to capture the number off the boat. The man in orange then appears to try and snag the drone with his fishing line twice but misses the drone.
The video was posted on See Through Canoe social media platforms on Sunday with a title that reads: "Guy harasses a manatee, scares it, then does a high five." By Monday evening, the post had 248 comments and 484 shares.
The drone operator, who does not want to be identified, said he gave a copy of the video to FWC and filed a complaint.
According to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, it’s illegal to molest, harass, disturb or touch a manatee with an object. Harassing manatees is a misdemeanor charge that carries a fine of $500 and up to 6 months in jail.