Friday, October 25, 2013

Two Men Charged With Harassing Florida Manatee

COCOA BEACH, Florida --  Two men have been charged by the U.S. Attorney in Federal Court for allegedly harassing manatees in a manatee protection zone.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Taylor Blake Martin and Seth Andrew Stephenson were charged under the United States Endgangered Species Act and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act after a video appeared on social media which depicted a man jumping from a dock onto two manatees in a canal behind a home in Cocoa Beach, Florida.  

The manatees appear to be an adult and a calf in the video which was taken in March 2012.  Another man is heard laughing in the background after the stunt was performed.

The canals in Cocoa Beach and the surrounding islands, known as the Thousands Islands, are designated as a "Brevard County Manatee Protection Zone" under the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act.

There have been several reported instances of people harassing Florida Manatees in recent years.  A Fort Pierce, Florida man was arrested for allegedly harassing or disturbing a manatee calf in Taylor Creek in St. Lucie County back in in January after photos of him hugging the sea cow were posted on Facebook.

In September 2012, a woman was photographed riding a manatee at Fort DeSoto Park in Pinellas County, Florida.  The woman contacted the Pinellas County Sheriff's department after the photos made the news, but was not immediately arrested because authorities said it was an arrestable offense since the manatee harassment did not occur in a deputy’s presence.  She was later arrested and charged in November 2012.

There are also recent instances of people helping marine animals in Cocoa Beach.  Just last month, a Florida surfer rescued a sea turtle that was tangled in fishing line.  In May, a Florida lifeguard saved a shark by pulling back out to sea with his bare hands.