The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement is leading a joint investigation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regarding a video of a man jumping onto two manatees.
They are investigating a video posted on Facebook and You Tube that shows the subject doing a cannonball on top of what appears to be a manatee and a young calf swimming near a dock.
The Service is investigating possible violations of the Endangered Species Act. Evidence obtained during the investigation may be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida for possible prosecution.
Manatees are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, as well as The Florida Marine Sanctuary Act.
The statute of limitations for the state is one year, which may bar state prosecution, as this event appears to have occurred over a year and a half ago.
Possible violations under the federal Endangered Species Act (which has a five year statute of limitations) could include “take.” The act defines “take” to mean “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.”
Any person who knowingly violates the take prohibition may be subject to criminal penalties of up to $100,000, or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of American people. Visit the Service’s websites at http://www.fws.gov/southeast/ or http://www.fws.gov/
For more information on Florida’s endangered and threatened species visit: MyFWC.com/ImperiledSpecies and Facebook.com/MyFWC.