Cautionary Tale: Hunt Lobster Illegally, Lose Your Boat

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lobster.jpg
NOAA.gov
Spiny lobster hunts are regulated in the Florida Keys.
Two Florida Keys residents were sentenced in Miami for illegally harvesting more than a quarter-million dollars' worth of spiny lobsters over the course of a few years.

Michael W. Kimbler and Michael Bland, both of Big Coppitt Key, were sentenced yesterday in Federal District Court for "conspiring to illegally harvest spiny lobsters from an artificial habitat placed in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary."

The illicit lobster hunt wasn't just a one-time bad-judgment call. According to a statement filed with the court, Kimbler and Bland were illegally hunting spiny lobster for about four years, from April 2007 through September 2011.

Kimbler and Bland hunted for the crustaceans using a commercial dive endorsement from a third party not involved with the illegal trapping; then they sold the lobster through a licensed seafood dealer in Key West. Before they were nabbed, the duo profited to the tune of about $270,000.

Kimbler was sentenced to a nine-month prison term, followed by a one-year term of supervised release. The court also seized his fishing vessel. Bland, who cooperated in the investigation, received one year of probation and was ordered to forfeit a fishing vessel. In addition, the IRS is investigating the duo's earnings during that time.

Spiny lobster season is August 6 through March 31 in the Florida Keys (not including lobster mini-season in July). In addition, Florida Administrative Code, Section 68B-24.006, states "No person shall harvest spiny lobster from an artificial habitat." In addition there are regulations regarding the size and number of lobster caught per day, as well as trap sizes.

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