Two Keys men busted for illegal lobster haul a week before mini-season

This separated lobster tail was seized Sunday. It shows an apparent spear wound.
This separated lobster tail was seized Sunday. It shows an apparent spear wound.

Two Marathon men aboard an unregistered personal watercraft were arrested on lobster-poaching charges Sunday near the No Name Key Bridge, state marine officers report.

Esequiel J. Morales Riveron, 23, and Vladimir Rodriguez Sarda, 20, both remained in the Monroe County jail Tuesday with no bond allowed.

Officer Andy Cox of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said that around 2 p.m., he watched one of the men diving near the Lower Keys bridge while the other maneuvered the PWC near the diver.

Cox said when the diver boarded the PWC, he moved to stop the watercraft. Morales and Rodriguez then dropped a white mesh bag into the water, Cox reported.

FWC Officers Jason Richards and Kyle Mason arrived to assist. Richards recovered the bag, which held 25 separated lobster tails (tails cannot be wrung on the water). Of those, 21 were undersize and seven apparently had been illegally speared. All were taken in a closed season.

Neither man had a saltwater fishing license and the PWC lacked a current registration. Several boating-safety violations were filed and the watercraft was seized for possible forfeiture.

In addition to multiple conservation misdemeanors, both were charged with a felony count of attempting to destroy evidence. Morales also was charged with a probation violation.

Lobster harvest is banned until the two-day mini-season, this year on July 30 and 31. Regular lobster season opens Aug 6.