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Manatee 'Cannonballing' Video May Lead to Federal Charges

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By Betty Wang, JD on May 23, 2013 11:41 AM

Three Florida men who made a manatee "cannonballing" YouTube video more than a year ago may soon face federal charges.

The three unnamed suspects produced a video that shows one of them jumping into a canal in Cocoa Beach, Florida, "cannonballing" over a manatee and her calf, possibly hitting them upon contact with the water.

What charges could they potentially face?

The investigation into the manatee "cannonballing" video is still underway. In addition to performing a "cannonball," the men are also seen using a hose to spray the surface of the water that the manatees were swimming in. According to the Orlando Sentinel, this may have been a tactic to bait the two manatees closer to them by using fresh water.

You can see the video here:

Because manatees are protected by both state and federal laws, the three men could potentially face state and federal charges.

For example, under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, it is illegal to harm an endangered animal or an endangered animal's habitat, even if it's on private property. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 contains similar prohibitions.

In addition, the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act makes it illegal for anyone to "intentionally or negligently annoy, molest, harass, or disturb" a manatee. Even attempting to "molest, harass or disturb" a manatee can land you in hot water.

While it is unknown at this point what the men were intending to pull off from this act -- whether it was in jest or actual malice -- they could face fines of up to $50,000 and be jailed for a year if they're charged and convicted, according to the Sentinel.

The manatee "cannonballing" video seems to show the men's actions were intentional; one local manatee activist even called it a "calculated plot." While that could suggest a potential criminal conspiracy -- an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime -- it's up to prosecutors to figure out what charges are most appropriate for the manatee prank.

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