Michael W. Kimbler of Big Coppitt Key was sentenced by a federal judge Monday to nine months in jail, one year of probation and forfeiture of his boat for illegally harvesting spiny lobsters worth more than $200,000 retail from artificial habitat placed in protected waters.
Kimbler, 44, and Michael Blarnd, 31, also of Big Coppitt Key, both had previously pleaded guilty to the marine crimes, which took place from 2007 to 2011. Bland received no jail time because he cooperated with the investigation. But he was sentenced to one year probation, of which six months is home confinement. Bland also has to turn over his boat to the federal government.
As part of their pleas, the men admitted constructing artificial habitats that they placed in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary for the purpose of luring lobsters. They returned to those illegal structures, along with other unnamed individuals, and caught lobsters. On several occasions, they caught the lobster out of season or they caught more than the 250 daily limit, prosecutors said.
To conceal the excess harvest, the men used a commercial dive endorsement held by a third party to sell the lobster to a wholesale dealer in Key West. Bland sold more than $70,000 worth of lobster at retail value.
Under the supervision of special agents from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Kimbler and Bland already have removed artificial structures they constructed from 200 sites using their own boats at their own expense.