Previous case involving men in shark-dragging video dropped for lack of evidence

A 2015 investigation into photos of men handling protected birds, and who are linked to the recent viral shark-dragging video, was dropped for lack of evidence despite having multiple photos.

The final report on the 2015 case includes the pictures, which are widely posted to social media, of people handling protected birds in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Related: Second shark video shows beer poured over protected hammerhead’s gills. 

According to the investigation released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today, there were seven violations of the treaty.

The men in the photos are not identified in the report, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is not identifying the people involved in the shark-dragging video, which it is investigating.

However, the men have been widely identified on social media.

This photo was included in the investigation by the USFWS.

The 2015 investigation was opened after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received numerous complaints about Instagram and Twitter photos that showed people manhandling birds, including a brown pelican, cormorant and white pelican.

The FWC and USFWS agreed to work together on the investigation.

In September 2015, agents tried to interview one of the men in the photos but he “immediately invoked his right to an attorney.”

In interviews with acquaintances and friends, one told wildlife officials that he had been with the man under investigation when he caught a protected spotted eagle ray and used a spear gun to kill it. The ray had a “hole, with blood, around the head area.”

“The spotted eagle ray was loaded into the back of (redacted) truck and taken to (redacted) house,” the investigation says. “(Redacted) said that (redacted) chopped off the wings of the spotted eagle ray,” and was going to put them in his freezer. There are no photos of the eagle ray in the investigation, but images have been posted on social media.

After five months, the service recommended the case be closed because although there were photos of the violations with the men identified in them, investigators “could not establish a venue or time frame” for when the photos were taken.

Related: Man in shark-dragging video asks for increased police patrols. 

This created a possible issue with the statute of limitations, according to the report.

Also, the main people in the photos “invoked their rights to have an attorney,” and were not interviewed.

Screen capture of violent shark-dragging video that went viral this week.

The shark-dragging video made international headlines last month after the men sent it to Miami charter captain Mark Quartiano, who called it “sick” and posted it to his Instagram page.

It has prompted a Change.org petition demanding the men in the video be held accountable.  

Florida Gov. Rick Scott also weighed in on the video.

On Friday, Scott wrote a letter to FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski calling the video “incredibly disturbing.”

“The brutality and disrespect shown to this animal is sickening and I am sure that you share in my outrage over these individuals’ heinous actions,” Scott wrote.

This redacted image was included in the report released today by the USFWS.

Yablonski responded: “Each and every member of our agency is disgusted by the behavior shown in the video. FWC Division of Law Enforcement investigators are working diligently to come to a lawful resolution in this case.”

Shark-dragging video shows lack empathy, need for power and control

A licensed psychologist who reviewed the viral shark-dragging video and disturbing images of animal treatment attributed to a Florida man said they show a lack of empathy and a need for power or control.

“An individual who is able to engage in cruelty to animals and not have any remorse shows a disconnect and a lack of empathy, a lack of consciousness,” said Rachel Needle, a West Palm Beach-based psychologist. “I’d be curious to see what their family is like in terms of kindness to others and to animals.”

Needle said while there is some research linking childhood animal abuse to adult violence, there is no direct link between abusing animals and the likelihood someone will abuse humans.

Related: Man in shark dragging video asks for increased police patrols.

The shark-dragging video, and a subsequent video that shows people pouring beer over a hammerhead’s gills, have sparked nationwide outrage and spurred more than 8,000 people to sign a Change.org petition demanding the men in the videos serve 1,000 community service hours and have their fishing licenses revoked.

“This sociopathic behavior demands attention and prevention,” the petition says. “Many feel that this act of violence is in fact a criminal act.”

Needle said sociopaths tend to be more impulsive and have difficultly forming relationships, where psychopaths are selfish, manipulative, have a lack of remorse, and are considered more dangerous than sociopaths.

She said the fact that there was more than one person involved may also explain the lack of feeling of responsibility for the act.

“Certainly they weren’t thinking they were going to get into any trouble,” Needle said. “People want to show of everything on social media and they probably thought this was cool.”

If you haven’t yet, join Kim on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Screen capture of violent shark-dragging video that went viral this week.

Second shark abuse video shows beer poured over hammerhead’s gills

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a second video that has surfaced of people pouring beer over the gills of a protected hammerhead shark.

The video comes as outrage continues to mount over a video of men laughing as they drag a shark behind their boat at high speeds.

It’s unclear whether the two videos are of the same men, although social media has linked them.

Related: Man in shark-dragging video asks for extra police patrols.

Robert Klepper, a spokesman for the FWC said he cannot say when the investigation into the shark dragging video will be finished.

“Since there are so many moving parts to an investigation like this, we are unable to provide a timeline as to when it might be complete,” Klepper said. All I can say is that investigators are working diligently on this case.”

One of the men 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.

Screen capture of violent shark-dragging video that went viral this week.

 

 

 

 

FWC previously investigated man social media ties to shark dragging

Update 6 p.m.: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission previously investigated a man that has been widely tied by social media to the viral shark dragging video.

The FWC is not confirming any link between the man in the shark video to an investigation it opened in 2015 after photos of people handling birds were brought to its attention.

The bird-related investigation was closed in 2017 and no charges were filed, according to FWC spokesman Robert Klepper.

FWC has identified the men involved in the shark dragging video, but is not releasing their names at this time.

But photos of social media posts widely distributed online since the shark dragging video went viral this week, say the same man in the bird photos also was on the shark dragging boat.

The Palm Beach Post is not identifying the man because he has not been named by law enforcement.

 

Previous story: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has identified the men in the violent shark dragging video seen widely on social media, but is withholding their names as the investigation is ongoing.

“It is too early to speculate as to what, if any, violations took place in this incident,” said FWC spokesman Robert Klepper. “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.”

The Sarasota Slam fishing tournament said Tuesday on its Facebook page that it had identified the men in the disturbing video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat at high speed.

It gave the names to authorities, saying the tournament will also ban the individuals from its competition.

“The Sarasota Slam is in NO WAY affiliated with the despicable behavior in the video on social media,” the Facebook post says. “We do not want to give those individuals any  more attention.”

The video, which has been widely shared on social media and made national headlines, shows a shark being dragged at high speed behind a boat and the men laughing.

“Look, it’s already almost dead,” one says in the video.

Some fishermen said although the 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 WPTV: 

Capt. Nate Weissman from Bradenton said he knows the captain in the shark video and the crew. He posted the video on his own Facebook page and tagged the captain and FWC in it.

He said he later received an apology from one of the people on the boat.

 

Anyone with information is urged to contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or Tip@MyFWC.com. Individuals can remain anonymous.

10/5/2000—-BIMINI, BAHAMANS–A shark passes by during a shark dive with the Shark Lab crew from the Bimini Biological Field Station. Snorklers are hanging on to an anchor line observing as sharks feed on chum thrown into the water. Staff photo by Bob Shanley.