Seven Alabama men racked up hundreds of charges apiece after illegally spearing 320 spiny lobsters during a trip to the Florida Keys in early July.
The men were pulled over in a rented boat by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers near Marathon, Fla., and officers discovered a bag containing 137 out-of-season wrung spiny lobster tails — 117 of which were undersized — four out-of-season stone crab claws and eight fish fillets, according to commission spokesman Officer Bobby Dube.
Later in a search of the house the men were renting nearby, officers turned up another 183 out-of-season spiny lobster tails or parts — 109 of them undersized — another stone crab claw and an undersized black grouper carcass.
The men admitted to spearing the lobster — the technique is illegal — and after being transported to a jail on Stock Island, each man received the same charges: Two felonies for having more than 100 undersized lobster; 586 misdemeanor counts for out-of-season lobster and wrung tails; and 14 misdemeanor counts for the lobster, stone crab and reef fish “not in whole condition.” The driver of the boat was given an additional misdemeanor for the black grouper.
Dube said that the lobster were taken from shallow waters and killed with spear guns used while the men were free diving.
“Unfortunately, these individuals chose to take advantage of our valuable saltwater resources that we are so proud of in the keys,” said the commission’s Regional Commander Maj. Alfredo Escanio in July. “They are also stealing from law-abiding residents and visitors who are looking forward to taking lobster during the two-day sport season later this month.”
Commercial lobster season was slated to open Aug. 6, after the two-day lobster mini-season on July 26 and July 27.