AL man sentenced after "cannonballing" endangered manatees

Stock Photo: (Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Stock Photo: (Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

ORLANDO, FL (WSFA) - He dubbed himself "Tayla the manatee slaya" but after posting video on a social networking site showing his adventures in "cannonballing" an endangered manatee and her calf, it's he who's being slayed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Alabama man, 22-year-old Taylor Blake Martin, of Guntersville, was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty to harassing the creatures while in Florida.

Martin was ordered by a U.S. Magistrate judge to pay a $3,000 fine and serve 175 hours of community service for his actions. He'll also be on probation for 2 years and must post an apology and statement of remorse on Facebook.

Posting about the crime on Facebook is what initially attracted the attention of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and led to the arrest and conviction of Martin and a second suspect, 22-year-old Florida resident Seth Andrew Stephenson.

According to court documents, a video posted on Facebook showed Stephenson luring an adult manatee and her calf to a dock with the help of a water hose. Once the animals were close enough, the video showed Martin jumping off the dock and landing in a cannonball position on the animals' backs. Before the video ended, it showed the men attempting to lure the animals back after they swam away. It's not known if they were able to attempt the jump again.

A link to the video on YouTube was confirmed by the USFWS and can be seen here:

Authorities say the men showed no remorse for their actions, with Martin telling a disapproving commenter on his Facebook post, "hahaha…in my debue [sic] as tayla the manatee slaya…im f---- ready to cannonball on every manatee living yewwww."

The men escaped jail time because there was no evidence that the animals suffered physical harm. Still, a representative for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the sentence "sent a clear message..." and said, "manatee harassment is a serious crime which will be dealt with harshly."

The penalty could have been much stiffer with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Manatees are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. They are found in marine, estuarine and freshwater environments.

Mug shots for the two convicts were not available.

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