Florida man hits manatee, has to give up boat

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In what is believed to be the first federal criminal prosecution in Florida for striking and killing a manatee with a boat, a Merritt Island man was sentenced Wednesday for killing the animal while zipping through a manatee slow zone.

Joseph Miata Jr., 62, who repeatedly had been cited for speeding through manatee zones, had to forfeit his 20-foot, $5,500 boat to the federal government and pay a $600 donation to a wildlife conservation group, the Florida Today newspaper reported.

“This is the first time that we’re aware of that we ever prosecuted someone for a lethal take,” Chuck Underwood, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the newspaper.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Orlando accused Miata in October of violating the Endangered Species Act. The manatee was killed as Miata sped through Sykes Creek last summer. He pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Baker sentenced Miata to one year of federal probation. He must forfeit the boat – a 1987 Mach 1 by Freedom Boats – that he was operating when he hit the manatee.

Click here for the full report.


28 comments on “Florida man hits manatee, has to give up boat

  1. Jersey Mark

    They should put the jerk in jail. Repeatedly cited? So now what, he goes out, buys a bigger boat, so he can kill two at a time?

  2. Patricia Taylor

    No sympathy. Would he speed through a school zone? Operators of motorized vehicles-on road or on water are responsible for their actions and must face the consequences.

  3. GA-Boy

    wow, and you never hear of anyone getting a car taken away for hitting and killing a family pet…amazing.

  4. Dan

    Good,  this guy broke the law and has no respect for wildlife, man or beast.  There are plenty of places go fast boats, even old ones with fools.

  5. Ed Wiser

    Good riddance to this bum! He is probably just as reckless and dangerous on the road. Guys like this are detrimental to the boat business because they make boating less relaxing and more stressful. He is the kind that races through No Wake zones causing  boats to slam against pilings and then blissfully runs away from the damages he causes. Kudos to Judge Baker for getting him off the water. Unless we as an industry corral scum like Miata we will eventually be forced to accept mandatory boat operator licensing.

  6. Devil's Advocate

    This man’s actions were indeed reckless, with no respect or sense of responsibility. I’m happy to hear he didn’t get away with it.
    However, for an automobile driver to get their “car taken away for hitting and killing a family pet”? Really? This particular boating incident is different.
    1) Manatees are an endangered species; Fido is not.
    2) The manatee was in the ocean, his natural habitat. The family dog roaming leashless in the streets has no business being there in the first place.
    Cats, dogs and other animals become roadkill all the time, but that doesn’t make the driver a criminal, and it doesn’t necessarily mean the driver was speeding or driving recklessly. Accidents happen, and streets are made for cars, not the family pet.

  7. boatman11

    Poor comparison GA-Boy.
    This guy repeatedly and willfully disregarded the law. It culminated in his killing of a protected Manatee for no reason, and that is a shame.  We humans are responsible for protecting our Oceans inhabitants.
    As far as I am concerned, this man should never be allowed on our waterways. No Heart, No Soul.

  8. dick greenwood

    I’d have been happier if I’d read that the judge prohibited this jerk from every again owning a boat.  The key to the issue is the word “repeatedly.” And unless your family pet is an endangered species, there’s not a comparison.  Good for the judge, but he could have done better.

  9. T2X

    There are NO manatee zones in the ocean, Devils Advocate. He was not in the ocean anyways. And, manatees are NOT an endangered species!

  10. pilothouseking

    “Man hits cow on highway, forfeits car”.  The TRUTH is that these mammals are NOT indigenous to Florida. They were brought here from South America to be farmed as food, hence name “SEA COWS”. If you look on your charts in the upper Florida Key’s you will see areas called “cow pens”.  this is where they used to be kept. They’ve long escaped and are now all over the place. They’re no more endangered than feral hogs. Wouldn’t common sense say: PEN THEM BACK UP? You don’t have to slow down your car on roads because cows are on the highway do you? Why is it different for these sea cows?  Why do THEY get to roam around and humans have to slow down?
    This is nothing but an example of when lawyers can organize groups of sympathizers (mostly gullible school children) to allow them to make a good living protecting and prosecuting others.

  11. susan

    Sykes Creek is not in the ocean.  It is an inland waterway and harbors places where shallow water and canals come together making it a prime place for manatee to eat, swim and rest.  Good for the judge for his actions.  Following the regulations and speed zones applies to boats and cars, and those who break those regulations should pay a price.  And by the way, what would you do if your ‘pet’ was run down and killed by a motorist who repeatedly speed through your streets above the posted speed limit…sit back and say too bad for the pet, and not want the person to have any repurcussions?  Good for the law.

  12. bpante

    WOW!!  A NON-NATIVE SPECIES is taking over the state.  This shows just how out of control these bureaucricies have become.  Manatee are not native to Florida.  They were brought here from Brazil for food.  They escaped from the pens in the Keys and have infested the whole state.  The Power Companies/consumers are forces to spend millions heating the water for this NON-NATIVE INVASIVE SPECIES if they shut down for maintenance in the winter. 

  13. boatman11

    T2X, the Manatee is protected under the endangered species act.
    Pilothouseking, it doesn’t matter where they originally came from, or how they got here…..just as it doesn’t matter where you came from or how YOU got here.  In today’s world, Manatees are protected under the law. It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not, or agree with it or not…IT IS THE LAW! The guy was sentenced because he repeatedly and systematically BROKE THE LAW.
    Manatees get to roam the waterways because that is their habitat….not ours. We use those  waterways for recreation, sport, fun….NOT survival.
    The last two responses about the unnecessary killing of this manatee just reinforce the perception so many of the non-boating public have about so many boaters, especially those in the speed boating world. That you are a self-centered and arrogant group only interested in what is good for you. You don’t like speed zones because it crimps your style. Kill the manatees because they get in the way of your speed.
    But understand one thing. Most people are non-boaters, and most people care about preserving and protecting these animals and want very much to see them thrive so their children and children’s children will be able to enjoy seeing them in years to come. They really don’t care whether or not you like slowing down in your boat…or whether or not you agree with the manatee protection act.  Boating is not a right, it is a privilege.

  14. Carey

    T2X, pilothouseking and GA-Boy, if you ever were, go back to school. I am so glad this country have few specimens like you. According to natural history literature, West Indian Manatees are endemic to Florida (maybe you brought “something else” from South America). According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species Act, they are still ENDANGERED. According to the international common sense rules, you are not reliable boaters. Stay away!

  15. florida-man

    I’m glad that guy killed that manatee. I wish he could have taken out 10 more that day! When will people realize they’re nothing but a nuissance animal/varment?? These stupid tree-huggers have taken away almost every waterway in Florida. Enough is enough!

  16. AnonymousBob

    to “pilothouseking”:
    please stay in your pilothouse and away from the keyboard. It doesn’t matter why the manatee was originally brought here. it doesn’t matter they used to be kept in cowpens. your “sea cow” analogy at a feeble attempt to support your opinion doesn’t matter.
    The boater broke the law as it exists today. The boater was repeatedly cited for breaking the law as it exists today. The boater killed a manatee, that is, today, cited as a protected species.
    Notice the difference. The past is the past. The present is the present. You seem to operating in the past where the rest of us are operating in the present. You need a new flux capacitor in your pilothouse because the one you have now is defective. Catch up, bubba!

  17. dave

    perhaps all the “save the manatee” folks will be as excited when they or one of their friends/family breaks the law by being BWI/BUI – where is the outcry for taking away a third time offender’s boat/car/airplane when he finally kills someone, while stone drunk.
    While I do not condone the action of the boater, as the Feds still consider the manatee endangered (and oddly FLA does not), and he did break the law, several times, but taking away his boat….is a little extreme when far worse offenders on land simply pay a fine…
    Some message we send – it is worse to kill a manatee than to maim/shoot/bludgeon/assault/rape a Person.
    Soon FLA will be taking away boats from people just passing through, or not pumping out adequately.
    But then if the manatee is no longer endangered, where will that cash machine of “saving the manatee” put their money?

  18. DP

    Rights and Responsibilities. Come-on folks, your right to drive your boat around on public property is conditional on your doing so responsibly. This includes your responsibility to respect all natural elements in the environment in which you choose to operate, and to obey legally posted signs. Time to grow-up folks!

  19. Rob Ree

    Non-native invasive species originally imported for food?    That is complete nonsense!   Do some reading for pete’s sake.

  20. Reach

    The guy broke the speed law and deserves some punishment, but
    confiscating private property is not something I agree with.
    The govenment has no right to take away your legal possessions.

  21. blueoyster01

    Ignorance seems to show itself more often than not in the boating world. As soon as Skipper Tyro starts the engine, the throttles are pushed to the stops or beyond like Quint in JAWS. Operating in restricted waterways calls for commonsense and is covered by COLREGS, but this is the ME society anymore and rules don’t apply to the ME’s. Mr. Miata should be made to be the poster boy for the ignorant boater; i.e., the one we want OFF the water. As they say “Stupid is as stupid does” and you can’t fix stupid! So, you do the next best thing in this case, take away the boat. I’m glad to see the ratio of comments are favorable to the manatees, but that there are negatives at all is alarming.

  22. More happiness, Less hate

    Fossil remains of manatee ancestors show they have inhabited Florida for about 45 million years. Modern manatees have been in Florida for over one million years (probably with intermittent absences during the Ice Ages); i.e., a lot longer than people have lived here. The present Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is a subspecies endemic to Florida. Genetic studies to date indicate that it is not derived from the populations in Mexico or Central America, but more likely colonized Florida from the Greater Antilles thousands of years ago, after the last Ice Age. However, there is no evidence that manatees are now entering Florida from Central America, the Caribbean, or anywhere else. The manatees in Florida today have every right to be considered Florida natives.
    There is also a government website which relays that the perception of manatees NOT being native to Florida is a myth. The whole taken from Brazil for food thing, total myth that got out of hand, so for those of you who believe it, You’ve been fooled! Florida Manatees are a sub species of manatee that have always been in Florida. There are other sub species of manatee that are not native, but the the Florida one is. You may be mad because you’re wrong, but think of it as an opportunity to be enlightened, an opportunity to be a better person. I wish people were nicer about where they live and the things in their environment. I’m no tree hugger for sure and I love a good steak like any other! But, look up on how many species have gone extinct due to man’s ignorance in the past 100 years or so… I’m not saying a human life is comparable, but have some compassion, none of us know how long we’ll be here or where we are going (if anywhere) after, but while we’re here we should appreciate the truly incredible world we live in. By the way, have you ever had a manatee tickle your foot? It’s quite fun 🙂

  23. scubajeff

    To those who think the judge overreached in this judgement,
    Have we become so arrogant and reckless as a nation of pioneers not to respect the life that is here, and the ecosystem it has a right to live in?
    They form part of a community of animals that work together in turn providing a world we enjoy. They are no more expendable than your arm or leg is to your body.
    This fellow showed recklessness and a willingness to disregard the law. That means his rights need to be removed.
    Thankfully, there are some sensible judges. I would have given him another year of probation and/or some specific responsibilities to volunteer to help restore their habitats.
    Im not a tree-hugger, but I sure do enjoy boating the natural environment of the clear waters of Florida. The manatees are a necessary part of that ecosystem.
    If you disagree, please feel free to line up in front of my boat and experience what this poor animal did.

  24. Mi-JMc

    It is time to see enforcement.  Lack of respect for boating laws have damaged this industry for the last 40 years.  The RV industry learned that keeping their past time family friendly and respectful to the laws has kept the quest for recreational dollars going their way.  Boating has become in many cases Booze, skin and disreguard for anything other than self centered want.

  25. captnmike

    The Government always finds a way to get the people to back their confiscation laws, it is always with fear, or animals, or natural habitat, or go green, global warming, the drug cartel yada yada blibitty blibitty. They start with cars and homes, boats and then it will be our guns and freedom. But it will be at the sake of saving an animal or marsh or tree. I guess For Scuba Jeff it could be as easy as lining us up so he can kill humans instead of animals that is always and interesting take by the animal phuturistcs.

  26. Real 1

    This so called boater got the 3strikes your out rule!! I know him. The manatee has more brains than him. If it was not the manatee it would have been you next!!

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