Whether it’s ignorance or willful disobedience, lobster mobsters get their just desserts in the Florida Keys. In 2011, there were 73 arrest and notices to appear issued over the two-day mini lobster season. In 2012, 15 people were caught with shorts, three with too many lobster, one with a pregnant lobster and another was fined for failing to have a measuring gauge.

They all were ordered to appear in front of a Monroe County judge, said Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission public information officer Robert Dube.

“If the violation deems it, they will go to jail,” Dube said. “I have taken people to jail for one lobster, but every case is unique in itself. Attitude has a lot to do with it.”

Lying, arguing and general lack of respect for the law and natural resources are sure fire ways to land in the slammer.

Dube added that 95 percent of the visitors are “trying to do the right thing” and the agency concentrates as much energy on education as they do with policing.

In the Florida Keys, the waters are policed in cooperation between many agencies — Monroe County, Florida Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Coast Guard and the water units of various police departments such as Key Colony Beach and Key West. They will meet on Tuesday, July 23 at the Sheriff’s hangar in Marathon for a roundup before getting out on the water to enforce the laws of mini lobster season.

While Fish and Wildlife officers handle most of the arrests and citations, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office also enforces the law. Between July 23 and August 12 of 2012, deputies arrested seven lobster offenders and issued a notice to appear to three others.

At the beginning of this year, Monroe County Marine Officer Willie Guerra was instrumental in stopping a ring of lobster thieves. In particular, he caught one man with 368 wrung tails believed to have been poached from commercial traps. The arrest was the work of many ranging from commercial fishermen doing surveillance to Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers.

“We believe it there was a ring of thieves operating for months and the thefts ended in this area soon after the arrest,” Guerra said. That guy also went to jail for a couple of years and received a strict probationary sentence, as well.

For those who think to cheat the system by lobstering early, think again: In 2011, eleven people were nabbed for starting early, or out of season. Last week some guy speared seven out of season, undersized lobster off White Street Pier in Key West. He, too, was caught and issued a notice to appear in court.


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