Three commercial fishermen working in the Florida Keys are facing felony conservation charges after state wildlife officers say they caught them with almost 130 undersized wrung spiny lobster tails on their boat Saturday night.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers said they caught the men as they were selling their catch to a fish house owner near Coral Key in the Middle Keys around 6 p.m.
The men, Elmis Ruiz Recano, 45, Blas Ismar Santos Pompa, 30, and Amaury Abreu Gonzalez, 49, were still being held in Monroe County jail Monday night on a bond of $50,550 each. They all live on the mainland, according to jail records.
As the FWC officers began checking their boat, one saw eight undersized lobsters in the vessel’s live well, according to an FWC press release. Officer Justin Salazar then found a gray five-gallon bucket with a white rag on top hidden in the forward berthing cabin, according to the press release.
In the bucket were 129 wrung spiny lobster tails — 127 of which were undersized, the FWC said.
The charges each of the fishermen face include: Possession of 100 or more undersized Florida spiny lobsters, which is a felony; possession of 25 wrung tails on the water (lobster must be brought in whole and alive), a second-degree misdemeanor; 135 counts of possession of undersized lobsters, a misdemeanor; misdemeanor possession of wrung tails on the water; and possession of undersized mutton snapper, also a misdemeanor.
Police say the owner of the fish house, Aurea Ester Meneses — who could not be reached for comment — was cited for having four undersized mangrove snapper and two live queen conch in the store’s live well.