, March 25, 2009 (ENS) - Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Friday took in a big catch of illegally netted fish and the fishermen who caught them.
The FWC arrested four men for gill-netting in state waters and seized 48,000 square feet of monofilament entangling nets and 4,000 pounds of fish.
The officers were working a net detail early Friday morning in Caxambas Pass, in the waters off the southwest coast of Florida when they observed two boats running without navigation lights working together, pulling illegal nets full of fish.
Officers stopped the two boats and found about two tons of ladyfish, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, pompano, spotted seatrout, bonnethead shark and blacktip shark. Some of the fish were still alive in the gill nets.
Carey Arthur of Naples; Daryl Ankney of Bonita Springs; Kirkwood Smith of Naples; and Scott Mobley of Ruskin are facing felony charges. The men were booked into the Collier County jail.
Fish in a gill net seized by FWC officers in Caxambas Pass. (Photo courtesy FWC)
Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on the use of gill nets in state waters in November 1994.
"These nets don't discriminate; they can entangle any species, and are very damaging to our resource," said FWC Capt. Alfredo Escanio.
"We hope this sends a message to the fishing community that we are out there, protecting the state's marine life."
The FWC sold the seized fish to a fish house. The proceeds are being kept in escrow, pending the outcome of the case.
Florida courts are likely to hand down jail sentences for illegal gill net fishing.
Manatee County Circuit Court Judge Gilbert A. Smith Jr. today sentenced a man arrested last summer to 30 days in jail with credit for time already served, as well as 18 months probation and 50 hours of community service.
The man, Christopher Ron Baker of Ruskin, pleaded no contest to one count of carriage of a gill net across Florida waters, possession of an unmarked entanglement net, harvesting saltwater products without a license and use of a gill net in state waters. The violations also occurred on the southwest coast of Florida.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.
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