The 2019 mini-season was more peaceful and less destructive than some years past, according to Officer Bobby Dube of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Dube offered the Weekly a report of his experience on the water during July 24 and 25.
“I worked both days,” he said “and I worked our information booth preceding mini-season. There were a lot more people that stopped by than last year, and I’d like to draw the decline in arrests, etc. from that.”
Dube was posted up at Divers Direct in Key Largo. “I was there 10 hours a day: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. I don’t think I’ve been as hot,” he laughed.
Dube and others at FWC, as well as the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, the Coast Guard, the National Marine Sanctuary and many other entities worked together to ensure a safe and successful lobster season. Dube reported very few incidents and injuries.
The most serious incident reported by the Sheriff’s Office occurred July 25: An out-of-county man was struck by a boat prop on his leg/foot and was taken to Conch Key, then Mariners Hospital and then was airlifted to Jackson South Medical Center in Miami. His injuries were not expected to be life-threatening. The Sheriff’s Office also assisted in the search for a missing diver near Spanish Harbor Bridge, but the driver was found safe shortly thereafter.
Dube attributed some of the success to good, clear weather and good visibility. “It let people spread out,” he said, “so they could go wherever they chose, to the bayside or oceanside. When the weather includes high winds and bad visibility, people tend to be by bridges and on top of each other, and that increases risk of accidents.”
There were a few incidents (see our “By the Numbers,” opposite page): a man who was illegally spearing snook (which are undersize and out of season) at Tom’s Harbor, a pair of brothers from Broward taken to jail for 12 undersize and over-limit lobsters, and a man who just couldn’t help himself but get started on lobstering on Tuesday before season opened.
“He started bully netting before midnight, and everyone was trying to warn him, but he didn’t listen,” Dube said, “and there was an officer right there among them.”
The funniest story? “We had a gentlemen that ended up going to jail in the Lower Keys, because there were officers pulling him over, and he tried to throw a bag of lobsters over.” The only problem?
“The bag was tied to a cleat on the vessel … so he went to jail.”
The biggest bust was of a boat that was 37 lobsters over the limit. Greed isn’t rewarded when it comes to mini-season!
Dube and FWC were glad there weren’t many arrests and no other serious injuries reported. All lost divers reported to FWC were located and boats in distress aided.
“No big lobster mobster stories,” said Dube. “It was a relatively safe two-day sport season for everyone down here.”
The following statistics were provided by the Coast Guard Key West Station:
Boardings conducted by the Coast Guard: 137
Lobsters inspected: 2,243
Safety violations issued by CG personnel: 4
Fisheries violations issued by CG personnel: 5
Recreational terminations: 2
Summary of any significant violation encountered (BUI, immigration, warrants, etc.) prosecuted by CG or partner agencies during joint boardings: 0
Total resource hours dedicated to the sport season: 68.3
The following statistics are the combined numbers from all four Sheriff’s Office Districts from Key Largo to Key West:
Vessel stops and safety inspections: 597
Arrests: 3. (One for over-the-limit, one person had a warrant unrelated to mini-season and another person was arrested on the water for drug violations.):
Notice to appear in court citations issued for undersized/over-the-bag limit or other violations: 40