FWC officers 10 hooks for illegal fishing with gillnets along the length of 4 football fields

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission agents have arrested 10 people accused of fishing with illegal gillnets near the Sunshine Skyway. According to the FWC, the nets measured over 4.5 football pitches and may have trapped hundreds of fish and sharks in less than a day.

FWC says he received one last anonymous tip about suspicious looking nets in the water at the north rest area of ​​the Skyway Bridge.

Captain Thomas Van Trees of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission said the nets are made from monofilament and work by “plugging” fish and entangling them in the mesh.

“It looks a bit like a wall of net. The top of the net will have floats on top to float above the water, and the bottom will have lead weights to sink to the bottom.” , Van Trees explained. “It’s a huge pity for our marine species, because whether you try to catch a species or not, it usually doesn’t matter. It catches everything and kills a lot of them. From fish to crabs to sharks, you call it, it’s gonna get stuck in it. “

After 10 hours of surveillance, FWC agents arrested 10 people, all from Atlanta. Their four nets measured 1660 feet. The FWC also seized over 500 pounds of snook, barracuda, catfish, mullet, sheep’s head, shark, etc.

Gillnets have been banned in Florida since 1995. Anyone caught using them will be charged with a third degree felony.

Donald Growdon spent Thursday evening fishing at Skyway Pier. After hearing about the arrests, he said: “It hurts anyone who wants to go out and fish for leisure.”

“What we do today affects the rest of tomorrow,” said his son, Jason Growdon. “Our future. And if we are trying to have a place for our young people or our children in the future, we have to be careful about what we are doing now.”

The 10 people arrested in this case face a list of charges that include:

  • One count of felony in the third degree – use of a gillnet in state water.
  • One count of first degree misdemeanor – major snook violation.
  • Two counts of second degree misdemeanor – too small sheep’s head.
  • 13 counts of second degree misdemeanor – undersized black drum.
  • Four counts of second degree misdemeanor – undersized license.
  • Five counts of second degree misdemeanor – illegal method of snook harvesting.
  • Five counts of second degree misdemeanor – undersized snook.
  • Five counts of second degree misdemeanor – off-season snooking.
  • Three counts of second degree misdemeanor – undersized trout.
  • Nine counts of second degree misdemeanor – illegal method of shark harvesting.
  • Nine counts of second degree misdemeanor – illegal method of harvesting blue crab.

The maximum penalty for a third degree felony charge is five years imprisonment and / or a fine of $ 5,000. The maximum penalty for a first degree misdemeanor charge is one year in jail and / or a fine of $ 1,000, and each second degree misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to 60 days. jail and / or a fine of $ 500.