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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Wanted fisherman fled to Cuba

Wanted fisherman fled to Cuba
BY ADAM LINHARDT Citizen Staff
alinhardt@keysnews.com

A Marathon trap fisherman accused of using dozens of untagged traps
apparently fled to Cuba following a two-month investigation into illegal
lobster fishing, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission and the State Attorney's Office.

FWC officers served a warrant on Nov. 4 after surveilling the vessel,
said FWC officer Bobby Dube.

In all, 19 untagged traps were fished, according to the FWC. Some traps
were also improperly numbered, records state. A mate aboard the vessel —
Juan Miguel Exposito-Carralero, 46 — was charged with 71 misdemeanor
counts of fishing illegal traps when FWC officers converged on the
vessel after it was returning to port, said Assistant State Attorney
Christina Cory.

The captain that the FWC had been targeting, Ricardo Hernandez, 52, was
not on the vessel at the time and happened to be in Cuba, Dube said. It
does not appear he fled, but he left before the warrant was served, Cory
added.

The case marks a shift in how some poachers are reacting to the FWC as
well as the Florida Keys Commercial Fishing Association's efforts to
quelch trap robbing, said the latter association's executive director
Bill Kelly.

"What's happening is trap robbing is now a third-degree felony," Kelly
said. "Because of our cooperative time and crime watch efforts, the bad
guys are switching from trap robbing to deploying traps with no tags.
And the reason is that for a time, tags with no traps was a misdemeanor."

The FWC has been using vessels with trap haulers on them to check more
traps to see if they are tagged or not, Kelly said.

"There were dock surveys done before the season and if you see
individuals stockpiling more traps than they have, then you know
something is probably amiss," Kelly said.

State Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, worked with the Florida Keys
Commercial Fishermen's Association, the State Attorney's Office and the
FWC on a bill that made putting out traps without tag a third-degree
felony, which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.

The final bill that passed did not make the violation of using
non-tagged traps a felony, but it did make other changes to make
violations for lobster and stone crab more consistent. It brought
harsher penalties for anglers caught taking under-sized lobster.

The spiny lobster fishery is a $71 million a year industry in the
Florida Keys. Fishermen have been paid as much as nearly $20 a pound for
lobster in recent years, which gives unscrupulous fishermen plenty of
incentive to put out unlicensed traps.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

Source: Wanted fisherman fled to Cuba | KeysNews.com -
http://keysnews.com/node/78955
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