Posted Friday, June 7, 2013
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement officers arrested two men June 2 for poaching spiny lobsters in Miami-Dade County. The men illegally possessed 468 wrung lobster tails.
Officers arrested Javiel Vergel (DOB 04/29/76) and Eriel Menendez Casana (DOB 01/20/74), both of Hialeah, for a multitude of misdemeanor charges, including possession of lobster tails out of season.
They grossly exceeded the daily bag limit of six lobsters per person per day, which is in effect during the regular lobster season: Aug. 6 through March 31. Also, lobster must remain in whole condition. Separating the tail from the body before bringing the lobster ashore is prohibited.
Of the illegally harvested lobsters, 283 were also undersized, and one was an egg-bearing female. Egg-bearing female lobsters are always illegal to harvest in Florida.
The men also possessed one undersized stone crab claw and one queen conch. Stone crab season is currently closed, and queen conch are illegal to possess in state waters.
The FWC received information from a local law enforcement agency regarding two men acting suspiciously while loading a boat onto a trailer at the Watson Island boat ramp. When the officers investigated further, they discovered a garbage bag full of lobster tails.
FWC officers responded to the scene and conducted a fisheries inspection. They discovered more grocery bags full of spiny lobster tails stowed in various compartments on the vessel.
For each misdemieanor charge, the suspects face $500 fines or up to 6 months in jail. Each tail can be treated as a separate charge.
“The possession of more than 450 illegally harvested lobster tails is a serious violation,” said FWC Maj. Alfredo Escanio, regional commander. “This incident demonstrates how strong working relationships with other law enforcement agencies can help the FWC protect our natural resources. The FWC will work to catch any individuals, like these, who purposely violate the rules and regulations in place to protect these precious resources.”
"This is something that is unacceptable, and we take extremely seriously," said FWC Community Relations Officer Jorge Pino. "Right now is mating season. You can imagine the damage they caused. These individuals pilfered, literally destroyed, a small piece of Florida's ecosystem."
The lesson: obey Florida fishing laws and do not harvest out of season. It will be very costly.