Don't harass the manatees.
A Stock Island man found out the hard way that even slapping the water around a group of manatees constitutes harassment and is illegal under state law.
Luis Tornas Perez, 49, a fisherman who lives on Stock Island, was arrested at about 1:15 p.m. last Wednesday after Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers said he slapped the water close to 16 manatees on Long Key near mile marker 55.
Tornas Perez was arrested on a second-degree misdemeanor and taken to Plantation Key Jail.
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The manatees were mating and that is why they were in such a large group, according to the the FWC arrest report. Officer Glen Way used his phone to video Tornas Perez "slap on the water," FWC said.
It's illegal to poke, prod, pursue or feed manatees — including giving them fresh water. Excessive noise or splashing is also illegal.
The FWC's website says "keeping your distance and passive observation are the best ways to view manatees."
"They define harassment as anything that alters the animal's natural behavior," said Mary Stella, director of media and marking for the Dolphin Research Center.
At issue is disturbing the manatee's natural state, Stella said.
"If the animal is resting, which they do a lot, and you startle it, what if it reacts and goes into a dangerous situation?" she said. "What if there is a boat nearby?"
A large percentage of manatees can be identified by the boat scars on their bodies, she said.