Captain calls drone video showing him poking manatee near Gandy Bridge a misunderstanding

Pinellas County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa Bay boat captain is defending his behavior after being seen poking a manatee with a pole in drone video that is drawing plenty of criticism on social media.

“I’m not out to hurt the manatees,” David Beede said. “I’m out there every day.”

So far, Beede has not been charged or cited with any violation. The incident remains under investigation by the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement.

“I love animals,” Beede told us. “I really do.”

Beede told 8 On Your Side it is a misunderstanding and that he was not harassing the sea cow near Gandy Bridge on the Weedon Island side.

“We pull up, I didn’t really see all the manatees, to be honest with you. The water is pretty green and now that I’m looking at it, the guy above me had a much better picture of what’s going on,” Beede said.

Beede runs a local business that offers guided fishing charters in Tampa Bay.

“They were talking about the prices to go see a manatee so I said hey we’ll go see them,” he said of the clients who were on the boat with him in the video.

Beede told 8 On Your Side he could hear a drone flying above him.

“All day long there was this buzzing sound above my head so there was a guy basically harassing me,” he said.

The “See Through Canoe” Facebook post that originally shared the video accused Beede of harassing and scaring one of the manatees, causing the rest of them to panic.

“I saw one of the manatees had a white tube hanging off it. I didn’t know what it was, I never seen that before,” Beede said, explaining why he extended the rod toward the manatee.

Beede said he tried to scrape that white tube off the manatee’s back and he had no intention to harm it.

“I didn’t mean to quote-unquote harass him or whatever it was everybody was saying,” he said.

Beede said he contacted FWC, but an official would not confirm that to 8 On Your Side.

Manatees are protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The animal is also protected under state law by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978.

That act states, “It is unlawful for any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass or disturb any manatee.”

Anyone convicted of violating the state law faces a possible maximum fine of $500 and/or imprisonment for up to 60 days. Conviction on the federal level is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and/or a year in prison.

The FWC encourages the public to report potential wildlife violations by calling the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.

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