Florida authorities have charged up to 10 suspects for utilizing monofilament gill nets to illegally capture and slay over 500 pounds of fish, a percent of which included sharks. Each of the 10 suspects hails from Atlanta, GA. After being discovered in possession of four nets spanning nearly 2,000 feet in St. Petersburg near the Skyway Bridge North Rest Area, they were arrested and charged on the spot.
Details of the arrest were announced by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Suspects were identified as Marcos Lopez Navarrete, Ernesto Lopez Navarrete, Roberto Gonzalez Lopez, Carlos Lopez Santana, Fredy Lopez Navarrete, Fredy Lopez Reyez, Rafael Castro Herrera, Dnaiel Reyez Valente, Efren Lopez Navarette, and Lorenzo Lopez Navarette. All were issued third-degree felonies for the use of the gill nets. These extended to violations under the second-degree for misdemeanors related to the illegal capture of marine wildlife including black drum, blue crab, sharks, sheepshead, and permit.
In accordance with federal law, the maximum penalty for a felony in the third degree is five years of jail time and either or in addition to a $5,000 fine. Furthermore, while the maximum penalty for a misdemeanor charge in the first degree includes a year in jail and either or in addition to a $1,000 fine, charges in this category for the second-degree mandate up to 2 months in jail and either or in addition to a $500 fine.
Monofilament gill nets, banned by the State of Florida in 1995, represent a type of capture tool suspended via floats that are invisible when placed underwater in order to indiscriminately trap fish by their gills. Due to their stealthy design, they pose a grave threat to diving birds, endangered sea turtles, and marine mammals. The amount of netting that the FWC seizes as evidence in cases such as this spans a total of over 4.5 football fields. Arrests related to this specific case were the result of an anonymous tip after surveilling the criminal endeavors.
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