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Viral video of Florida boater scaring manatees with pole draws outrage, accusations of animal abuse

Posted at 9:07 AM, Feb 25, 2020

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A viral video is drawing the ire of Florida residents on social media, as many say it shows fishermen abusing manatees.

The drone video shared with 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 video shows one man wearing a red jacket use a long pole to poke and scratch one of the manatees, scaring the animal. The manatee then fled the area.

Many of the other manatees in the area were startled by the man's actions, prompting them to swim away quickly.

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

"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 (FWC) has been contacted about the incident and was given the video.

The FWC website says 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. A conviction for violating federal protection laws is punishable by fines up to $100,000 and/or one year in prison.

Watch the video in the player below. Note that it contains material that some may consider animal abuse.

This story was originally published by Scott Sutton on WPTV in West Palm Beach.