Marine Life Protection Crimes

Under Florida law, several Florida Fish and Wildlife crimes are related to the protection of marine life including dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles. Although it is not a problem to watch wild marine mammals near the waterways or on the beach, the law restricts the way a person is allowed to interact with marine life.

So watching a marine animal is acceptable, but it might be against the law to intentionally touch, harass, ride on, or feed a wild marine mammal. Doing so might result in serious civil or criminal penalties under state or federal law.

Crimes for harassing marine life are often reported to FWC online or through their hotline at 888-404-FWCC (888-404-3922). Other tips are send by cellular phone users by calling *FWC or #FWC, or sending a text to

Attorney for Crimes Involving Marine Life in Florida

If you were arrested or received a Florida Fish and Wildlife Resource Citation for intentionally or negligently annoying, molesting, harassing, or disturbing a marine animal, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL.

We are familiar with the civil and criminal penalties in Section 379.2431 that regulate the way we interact with marine animals including dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles.

For more than 10 years, our main office has been located at the same location in downtown Tampa in Hillsborough County, FL. We also have a second office in New Port Richey in Pasco County. Our four attorneys represent clients throughout the other areas in Tampa Bay including Brooksville in Hernando County, Clearwater and St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, Winter Haven and Bartow in Polk County, and Bradenton in Manatee County.

Contact an attorney at Sammis Law Firm for any civil or criminal Florida Fish and Wildlife violations in Tampa or the surrounding Tampa Bay areas. Let us put our experience to work for you.

Call 813-250-0500.

Crimes Prohibiting Interacting with Manatees

In Florida, manatees are protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. The law prohibits attempting to molest, annoy, kill, wound, shoot, hunt, pursue, harm, harass or feed a manatee.

Under Section 379.2431(2), a conviction for unlawfully interacting with a manatee can be charged as a Level II offense which is a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail or 6 months probation.

A conviction for violating federal laws that prohibit interacting with a manatee come with a fine of up to $100,000 and a year in federal prison.

Crimes Prohibiting the Harassment of Dolphins

In Florida, it is not uncommon to see an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. Although bottlenose dolphins are not an endangered species, dolphins are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Florida law prohibits the harassment of a dolphin, which includes any act of pursuit, torment or annoyance that has the potential to injure the animal or disrupt its behaviors.

As a practical matter, any human-caused change to a dolphin’s behavior might lead to an allegation of disturbance or harassment under Section 379.2431(3).

Crimes Prohibiting Disturbing Sea Turtles

Many types of sea turtles are endangered and the loggerhead sea turtle is listed as threatened. All sea turtles are protected under the Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act found in Section 379.2431 of the Florida Statutes. Many types of sea turtles are also protected under federal law in the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Both Section 379.2431(1) and F.A.C. Rule 68E-1 prohibit taking, possessing, disturbing, mutilating, destroying, selling, molesting or harassing any marine turtles, nests or eggs and the marine turtle habitat.

The waters in Florida contain five species of sea turtles including:

  • Hawksbill Sea Turtles
  • Loggerhead Sea Turtles
  • Green Sea Turtles
  • Leatherback Sea Turtles
  • Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles

The most commonly charged crimes include:

  • POSSESSION OF MARINE TURTLE EGGS by taking, possessing, disturbing, mutilating, destroying, cause to be destroyed, selling, offering for sale, transferring, molesting, or harassing a marine turtle or its nest or eggs, contrary to Florida Statute 379.2431(1)(d)1
    and 2, (e)2.  is charges as a first degree misdemeanor. A second or subsequent conviction is charged as a third (3rd) degree felony.
  • FELONY POSSESSION OF MARINE TURTLE EGGS by knowingly and illegally possess more than 11 of any eggs of any marine turtle species in violation of Section 379.2431(1)(d)1 and 2, (e)4. is charged as a third degree felony or Level I offense under Section 3792A2- 379.2431(1)(e)5.
  • UNLAWFUL TAKING OF MARINE TURTLE EGGS by unlawfully and knowingly taking, disturbing, mutilating, destroying, cause to be destroyed, transferring, selling, offering to sell, molesting, or harassing any marine turtle species, or the eggs or nest of any marine
    turtle species under Florida Statute 379.2431(1)(e)5. is charged as a third degree felony.

This article was last updated on Monday, December 2, 2019.