TAMPA (FOX 13) - State wildlife investigators say a flood of tips from the public has helped them identify the men seen in a viral shark-dragging video, but they are not ready to publicly name them yet.
The video, widely shared around the world yesterday, shows three young men smiling and laughing while they pull a shark behind their speeding boat. The animal skips along the water as the boat hits waves, appearing to twist and turn on the line, but it's not clear if the animal is, in fact, alive.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced an investigation yesterday, asking the public to help them identify the men in the video. Since then, they say they have received plenty of tips.
"The FWC has identified the individuals in the video, and would like to thank the public for their assistance," spokesman Rob Klepper wrote Wednesday morning. "Per normal protocol, while this investigation is ongoing, the agency will not be confirming the identities of the individuals involved."
Wildlife activists around the world shared the video, some calling the men "shark torturers" and demanding their immediate arrest.
For their part, FWC investigators urged caution as they investigate, but also made their disapproval clear.
"It is too early to speculate as to what, if any, violations took place in this incident," Klepper reiterated Wednesday. "However, the FWC would like to state that 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."
Klepper told the Miami Herald that investigators are still looking for tips about where the video was taken and what type of shark was involved. According to the agency, anyone with more information is asked to contact the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or Tip@MyFWC.com. They say you can remain anonymous.