A Marathon commercial fisherman faces more than 130 conservation counts after being charged with fishing illegal lobster traps.
Franklin Garcia Jimenez, 40, was arrested before dawn Tuesday as part of a trap-tag case filed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers.
Garcia is charged with “fishing more than 50 working, untagged traps,” agency information Officer Bobby Dube said. FWC Investigator Danielle Munkelt and Officer Adam Garrison also filed counts accusing Garcia of using buoys that were painted with the wrong colors and buoys that do not meet legal size requirements.
All of the 136 counts are misdemeanors. Garcia posted a $68,000 bond and was released from the Monroe County jail Thursday.
“This case is ongoing,” Dube said. “The investigating officers are continuing to look for other traps that may not have tags.”
Florida law sets a limit of 475,000 traps in the commercial spiny-lobster fishery. Licensed commercial fishers are allocated a certain number of trap tags based on their harvest history and can purchase trap tags from other fishing operations. Buying the right to purchase a trap tag can cost $200 per trap.
“It’s important for everybody to play by the rules,” Dube said. “The trap-tag reduction was put in place for the greater good of the lobster stock and and the marine environment.”
The Florida Keys produce about 90 percent of the nation’s spiny-lobster harvest.
The Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association supports the crackdown on unlicensed traps, Executive Director Bill Kelly said.
When state penalties for robbing lobster traps were toughened, some unscrupulous fishermen “blatantly made the shift from trap-robbing to fishing illegal gear,” Kelly said. “There may hundreds or thousands of traps out there with no tags.”
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206