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Davie man spears off-limits fish in Florida Keys, cops say

Goliath groupers on the wreck of the Zion about 90 feet deep off Jupiter in 2009. Last year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission agreed not to lift a nearly two-decade ban on harvesting the fish despite some complaints from anglers that they’re taking over reefs.
Goliath groupers on the wreck of the Zion about 90 feet deep off Jupiter in 2009. Last year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission agreed not to lift a nearly two-decade ban on harvesting the fish despite some complaints from anglers that they’re taking over reefs.

A Davie man has an appointment with a Florida Keys judge after police say he killed a state- and federally protected fish with a spear gun.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office says Joseph Masa Mendiola, 22, speared a 13-inch hogfish and a 20-inch Goliath grouper Sunday night in Marathon.

A deputy saw Mendiola, who could not be reached for comment, at 6 p.m. in the water wearing a wetsuit and carrying a spear gun, said Adam Linhardt, spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

The fish were found dead on the shore, Linhardt said. The deputy issued Mendiola a citation to appear in court, where he will likely be fined.

Hogfish must be 16 inches to keep, and Goliath grouper, which can reach more than 8 feet long and 800 pounds, have been illegal to keep by both Florida and federal law since 1990.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2018 decided to keep the Goliath grouper ban in place, despite complaints by some anglers that the voracious fish have made a comeback and are taking over the reef.

The original story incorrectly labeled Goliath groupers as endangered. They are federally protected, but not listed under the Endangered Species Act.

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