That’s Some Expensive Lobster!
A Volusia County corporation and a Volusia County man have paid $20,000 in federal fines and have been prohibited from operating their charter fishing business for 30 days. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement officers found illegal lobsters on board their vessel “X-Stream” about two months ago near New Smyrna Beach.
The federal fines and fisheries permit sanctions were handed down recently by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) against vessel owner Daniel J. Webster, P.A., of Daytona Beach, and Garret William Taynai, captain of the “X-Stream.”
“The owner and operator both violated the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Management Act by exceeding bag limits of lobster, wringing and spearing lobster, possessing egg-bearing lobster and possessing undersize lobster,” said NOAA Special Agent Richard Chesler.
FWC officers Clay McDonough and Kelly Kazmierczak discovered the violations while they were inspecting the charter fishing vessel’s catch on Sept. 14, in the Intracoastal Waterway at Marker 24 near New Smyrna Beach.
McDonough and Kazmierczak boarded the charter boat at about 6:30 p.m., Sept. 14 and found 42 legal spiny lobsters and an assortment of reef fish in a fish cooler. However, when McDonough investigated an area beneath the cooler he discovered a bucket that contained 20 lobster tails that had been separated from the bodies (wrung). Eggs had been scraped off three of the tails; one tail was speared and one was under the legal size limit – all violations. In addition, the vessel had 20 lobsters over the legal limit.
Webster and Taynai told the FWC officers they caught the lobsters while diving 28 miles east of Ponce Inlet in the Atlantic Ocean. Since the lobsters were taken in federal waters, FWC and NOAA officials agreed federal jurisdiction was most appropriate for prosecution.
Chesler said the FWC and NOAA frequently work jointly to apprehend and prosecute those who violate federal fisheries laws.
“Lobster rules are in place to help prevent overfishing the resource, and when people ignore the rules by keeping more than allowed, using illegal methods to obtain them and taking egg-bearing females, it is a serious threat to the lobster population,” said Maj. Jack Daugherty, FWC’s law enforcement commander for the Northeast Region. “By working together, FWC and NOAA can apprehend and prosecute poachers and help ensure the lobster population remains healthy today and in the future.”
NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement has numerous joint enforcement agreements that federally deputize fish and wildlife and environmental law enforcement officers in 23 coastal states and territories, including Florida, to enforce federal fisheries regulations.