MARATHON, FL (WTVM) – A group of fishermen, some of them fathers and sons from Eufaula and Phenix City, have been arrested for an illegal head start on the lobster season. That's according to officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The suspects are accused of several crimes, including the illegal spearing of 320 lobster in Marathon, Florida. The 2-day lobster sport season in the Florida Keys starts July 26 and the limit is 6 lobster per person per day.
Officers made the discovery while doing a boating safety inspection.
Six of the seven men arrested are from East Alabama: Francis Bartkiewicz and his son Kyle of Eufaula; David Gilmore of Eufaula; Leon Reeves and his son Robinson from Phenix City; Jeffrey Honnell of Pittsview. They were all taken to the Monroe County Jail in Florida.
They face the following charges from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation: second to third- degree felony counts for more than 100 undersized lobster; 586 first- degree misdemeanor counts for out of season lobster and wrung tails; 14 second-degree misdemeanor counts for speared lobster, out of season stone crab, undersized stone crab, and reef fish not landed whole condition.
"Unfortunately, these individuals chose to take advantage of our valuable saltwater resources that we are so proud of in the keys," Major Alfredo Escanio, FWC Regional Commander for the area, said. "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."
The resource inspection revealed a bag containing 137 out of season wrung spiny lobster tails, 4 out of season stone crab claws, and 8 reef fish fillets.
A search of the suspect's home in the Florida Keys revealed another 183 out of season spiny lobster tails or parts, according to the FWC officers, who also seized all of their spear guns and snorkel gear.