Drone video appears to show man harassing manatee near Gandy Bridge

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PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A drone video posted to See Through Canoe’s Facebook page appears to show an unidentified man on a boat harassing a manatee, which is both a state and federal offense.

The video shows a man in a red jacket take a pole of some sort and use it to scratch or poke at a manatee, scaring it and several other manatees around the boat.

“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 its Facebook post.

8 On Your Side has learned the incident happened near the Gandy Bridge on the Weedon Island side.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed it is investigating and said it will provide additional information as it becomes available.

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.

You can learn more about safely viewing manatees on the FWC website. Information for boats, personal watercraft and paddle-sport operators is also available.

Violations can be reported online or by calling 888-404-FWCC. Cellphone users can also call *FWC, 3FWC or send a text to Tip@MyFWC.com.

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