Target: A. Lee Bentley, III, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida
Goal: Punish men who filmed themselves harassing and abusing wild manatees in Florida
Manatees in Florida are protected by both state and federal laws, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. Although these animals are endangered and their population is fragile, some people still think it’s funny to harass and abuse them in their natural habitat.
Two young men, Taylor Blake Martin and Seth Andrew Stephenson, filmed and posted a video online of them luring and jumping onto unsuspecting manatees in Florida. The Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife began investigating these men after their video was shared on Facebook. It has been suspected that the manatees in the video were a mother and her calf. In the video, one man is heard laughing while he cannonballs into the water and lands on top of a manatee. The other man filmed the harassment and urged him to jump.
Although Tampa Bay FOX 13 News reported that the men could face a fine up to $25,000, their actual sentence was much lower. Martin was ordered to pay $3,000 and Stephenson to pay $2,000. Both men are also required to serve community service hours.
Sign the below petition to urge authorities to punish these men for abusing wild manatees to the fullest extent of the law. This is not the first time that people have been reported harassing manatees in Florida. Let these men serve as an example to other potential harassers that it is unacceptable to abuse these delicate and beautiful creatures.
Dear Attorney Bentley,
As you know, Florida’s manatee population is delicate and in dire need of protection. Despite this widespread understanding, some people still think it is funny to taunt, tease, and abuse these harmless creatures in their natural habitat. Taylor Martin and Seth Stephenson are just the two most recent manatee abusers who need to be brought to justice.
I am urging you to punish these men to the fullest extent of the law to make an example out of their reckless and irresponsible behavior. An adult manatee and a calf were put at risk for no other purpose than to create a disturbing Facebook video. Please work with local manatee protection groups to make an example of this case and increase public awareness about our legal and ethical responsibility to the manatees.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: flickkerphotos via Flickr