From initial reports, this year’s lobster miniseason so far has been relatively quiet.
While final numbers won’t be tallied until well after the two-day Florida spiny lobster season ends after midnight Thursday, the Keys saw five arrests related to the annual hunt, dozens of conservation citations and warnings, and no deaths on the water, according to information provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
Information about Miami-Dade and Broward counties was not immediately available.
FWC officers also made at least three boating under-the-influence-of alcohol arrests since miniseason began Wednesday at midnight.
Sheriff’s Office deputies assigned to marine patrol for the event made one conservation arrest, according to Adam Linhardt, spokesman for the agency.
FWC officers assigned to the Keys arrested four people as of Thursday evening. Three men were arrested late Tuesday night after they were caught capturing lobsters about an hour before the season started.
Thousands of people come to the Keys every year for their chance to catch Florida spiny lobster, the clawless delicacy that has been off limits to anglers since the regular season ended March 31. Regular season for recreational and commercial lobstering begins again Aug. 6.
Miniseason is held statewide, but the Keys is a particularly popular spot to hunt lobsters — either by scuba diving and snorkeling during the day, or bullynetting at night.
Lobsters’ carapaces, the part that is not the tail, must be at least 3 inches long. Individuals are allowed to catch six lobsters per day in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park. Elsewhere in the state, the bag limit is 12 lobsters per person, per day during the sport season.
During the regular season, the recreational bag limit per day is six throughout the state.
On Wednesday night, FWC officer arrested a Big Coppitt Key man on a total of nine conservation counts. Rene Aguero Garcia, 39, was arrested around 7 p.m. on Cypress Road in Summerland Key with three lobsters over the bag limit and six that were undersized, according to an FWC arrest report.
Deaths and injuries
Diving and snorkeling for lobsters can be taxing on the body, particularly for those not in good physical condition. In years past, there have been several deaths across the state connected with miniseason.
Last year, one person died who was participating in the hunt in the Keys.
Previously, the last person to die during miniseason in Monroe County was in 2013. Before that, it was 2011.
Between 2005 and 2009, however, there were 12 dive-related fatalities linked to the short sport season.