SARASOTA (WWSB) - A video posted to Facebook showing a man aboard a fishing charter holding a seabird by the neck is sparking outrage.
In the video, the bird, which appears to be a Royal Tern, is held by the neck by a man wearing a pair of gloves. The man accuses the bird of eating his bait and asks, “What should I do with you?” He holds on to the bird for almost a minute before throwing it off the back of the boat, where it takes flight. He says, “You lucky bird.”
The video was posted on Christmas Eve to the Facebook page for Mark the Shark’s Monster Fishing Charters. Mark the Shark is a fishing charter based out of Miami, Florida. The video had the caption, “MERRY XMAS.. TODAY IS YOUR LUCKY DAY! PETA THIS!” It is unclear who the person is in the video and who took the video.
As of writing this article, the video has around 5,000 views and 175 comments, the majority of which are negative and include several angry tirades.
Richard wrote, “Nothing like harassment and molestation of wildlife to start the day.” While Liz wrote, “Why did you have to do this? I’m a huge fan but this was not cool at all, man. Not cool at all.” Troy added, “Disgusting waste of space and oxygen. I hope someone treats this piece of s*** the same way he treated that bird.”
But some people came to the defense of the video. Brad wrote, “All you idiots, he probably took the hook out of it before this video.. Bird is fine.” Susan wrote, “That ‘****** bag’ probably saved that birds life!!! Soooo many times has a bird taken my bait and I had to reel it in!! Hook in the mouth!!! I could have cut the line!!!! But nooooo!!! Bring them in to see another day!! Even after getting the shit bit out of you while you think your doing the right thing!!! Kiss that bird for another day!!! Uggg.”
Not all commenters went along with what the defenders were arguing. Michael wrote, "So you did the right thing and removed a hook from it? But then you treat it like this rather than just releasing a federally protected bird."
ABC7 reached out to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. All they would tell us is, “The FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement is looking into this video.”
ABC7 also reached out to Capt. Mark Quartiano, the owner of Mark the Shark. In a text message, he expressed surprise that about us doing a story on the video. When we informed him that FWC is investigating, he replied, “Laughable.”
You may remember Capt. Quartiano. Last year, he posted a ten-second video on Instagram that showed a Blacktip shark being dragged behind a vessel at a high rate of speed. That ultimately led to charges against Michael Wenzel of Palmetto and Robert Lee Benac III of Bradenton. Each are charged with two felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals and one misdemeanor count of violation of rules relating to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
At the time, Quartiano said, "They sent it to me after they did that. I guess thinking I’d give them my blessing, and I’d just laugh it off. When I saw that, I couldn’t believe it. I was like woah who does this to any animal? What kind of human beings are you guys?”
The FWC’s investigation into the shark dragging case began on July 24, 2017. Investigators say the shark in the video was shot and dragged in the waters of Egmont Key in Hillsborough County on June 26th. In addition to the shark being dragged, investigators say it was also unlawfully taken by speargun. They say many of the events were documented on Snapchat.
The case against Wenzel and Benac is still proceeding through the court system.