Three lobster poachers, snared with more than seven dozen illegal lobsters in Biscayne National Park last year, forfeited their 43-foot fishing boat this month after pleading guilty.
Donny Caridad Gonzalez, Nemesio Gonzalez and Josefina Diaz Garcia, who park officials said have a record of poaching, also agreed to surrender their saltwater fishing license and serve three years probation.
Park and state wildlife officers stopped the group as they piloted the El Donny, loaded with traps, just south of the Biscayne Channel for a routine inspection on May 9. After officers spotted a lobster shell in a crab trap, they searched the boat and found four plastic bags stashed in the engine room. The bags contained 87 wrung lobster tails — 66 were undersized.
87The number of illegal lobster tails stashed aboard the El Donny
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The regular lobster season in Florida runs from Aug. 6 through March 31 and all lobsters must be brought ashore intact. The number of lobsters is also limited to six per person inside park boundaries.
In recent years, wildlife officials have increased efforts to crack down on poaching, meting out harsher punishments after commercial fishermen complained that traps were being robbed. Last April, a Miami man caught with hundreds of lobster tails near Long Key was sentenced to a year in jail and fined more than $28,000. In 2014 a six-year federal task force in the Keys netted at least 16 poachers.
Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich