A Florida police department is increasing its patrols at the house of a man identified by social media as appearing in the violent shark-dragging video that went viral this week.
The 21-year-old’s name is being withheld by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials while the investigation is ongoing, but his personal information has been widely publicized on social media.
Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler said the man and his family made the patrol request following the social media outrage. There have been no incidents at the man’s home, but officers will increase patrols as they would if any citizen made a similar request, Tyler said.
“There aren’t any crowds gathered outside,” Tyler said. “We’re just keeping an extra eye open.”
Tyler said he would prefer people not rush to judgment, and be careful about what they post to social media.
He said he learned about the video over the weekend.
“I immediately was thinking, ‘I hope they’re not from Florida,'” he said. “I didn’t realize there were ties to my community.”
Tyler said he’s not surprised by the outrage.
“I think we all have some strong emotions about the video,” he said. “Let’s just let law enforcement conduct its investigation and find out what, if any, laws were broken.
Florida man has history of posting photos with wildlife
A man seen in the disturbing shark-dragging video that went viral earlier this week has a history of posting troubling photos with wildlife in the past and has been previously investigated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed Wednesday that there was an open investigation in 2015 of the previous photos, but is not linking the man in the shark-dragging video with that investigation. The investigation was closed this year with no charges filed.
Social media has not been shy about publicizing the man’s identity, including posting his name, date of birth and address in Palmetto, Fla., on multiple message boards and websites.
The Palm Beach Post is not naming the 21-year-old because he has not been identified officially by authorities.
FWC does know who the men are in the shark video, but is not releasing their identities, and isn’t sure any laws were broken by violently dragging the shark at high speeds behind a boat.
PALM BEACH POST: FWC previously investigated man social media ties to shark dragging
“However, the FWC would like to state that the lack of respect shown in this video for our precious natural resources is disheartening and disturbing, and is not representative of conservation-minded anglers around the world,” said spokesman Robert Klepper.
In one photo, the man is seen hugging a pelican, tightly gripping its beak. In another, he is seen holding up a protected spotted eagle ray.
Still, some fishermen said that although the shark-dragging incident was cruel, it may not have broken any laws.
Marvin Steiding, owner and captain of Reel Candy Sport Fishing in Jupiter, said dragging the shark was “unnecessary and totally ridiculous.”
“A few captains are pretty upset,” said Steiding, who does allow clients to catch and release sharks. “I’m not a fan of killing them because they have no edible value except Mako and from an ecological value they are very important to our reefs.”
But because it’s hard to tell what kind of shark was being dragged in the video – not all species are protected – it could be difficult to levy any charges, Steiding said.
Blacktip, bonehead, bull, blue, nurse oceanic whitetip, shortfin mako and thresher are among the species that can be harvested, although some have size limits. About 25 species, including the tiger shark, are prohibited from harvest. That means if they are snagged by fishermen, they must be released as quickly as possible.
“I don’t know why it’s not covered under animal cruelty,” he said. “It’s just very unfortunate.”
According to CNN, the video was made public by Miami charter fisherman Mark Quartiano. Quartiano said he thinks the men sent it to him so he would publicize it and get them more attention.
Instead, Quartiano said he thought it disturbing. The men responded “with a picture of the shark’s head and remains after it had been dragged through the water,” CNN wrote.
“They thought it was funny, they thought it was cool,” Quartiano said to CNN. “Even if the shark was dead, you don’t do that. It’s totally disrespectful.
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