FWC released a news article this past week titled “suspect cited for 2,611 pompano over the allowable limit.”
The captain was illegally fishing with giant gill nets 5.5 miles miles south of the proper endorsement zone in the Gulf.
The regulations for Florida pompano are complicated, but limited facts indicate the applicable limit would have been 100, as incidental bycatch only.
Officers found a total of 2,711 pompano onboard the vessel with 76 undersized, outside of the endorsement zone.
So, this captain illegally targeted pompano in a semi-protected area and took over 27x the already high commercial bycatch limit.
We applaud FWC for catching this poacher. However, merely citing the guy is not enough. And it's not about this guy in particular.
Let’s put it into perspective.
Pompano are arguably the #1 best eating fish out there and are undeniably a prized sport fish.
Recreational fishermen are limited to six per day. Anglers like you have fond memories jigging at the beach, bagging a few pompano, and cooking them up for friends and family. Catching a few pompano is crushing it.
Most of the time, you walk away empty handed. And if you do well one day, better not take a 7th or an undersized fish or you will be cited.
And that is fine.
But here, we have a captain that illegally targets pompano in a protected area with massive gill nets, brings in 2,611 over the limit, including 76 undersized (and probably hundreds of pounds of other bycatch). He also walks away with a citation.
Who knows how many times he has gotten away with this and how many others do the same on a regular basis? This only makes it more difficult to bag a few pompano, and hinders progress while we are on the cusp of a rebound in pompano populations.
Due process has yet to unfold and determine the extent of the punishment for this guy, but it does not look great for conservation seeing as he was not even arrested.
We argue large scale pompano poachers should be arrested on the spot and charged criminally.
Per the Fla. Stat. 379.407(2)(l), this is considered a major infraction, because it involves more than 100 pounds of finfish. It actually involves about 4,000 pounds.
This subjects the poacher to additional fines and possibly getting his license removed. The statute also allows for some low levels of imprisonment depending on how many convictions the person has, but it will likely not result in any.
This kind of egregious disregard for our state’s natural resources negatively impacts hundreds of thousands of anglers’ ability to pull in a few pompano and pass that tradition down to their children.
How often do poachers get away with this kind of behavior or walk away with a fine and consider it a cost of doing business?
Glades Hunter supports arresting large scale pompano poachers, seizing their vessels, permanently removing their commercial licenses, and pursuing jail time. To do this, the State of Florida needs to prosecute these cases aggressively.
It is vital that we strongly deter this egregious disregard for our fisheries if we want to sustain full freezers and tight lines.
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