|Published:||Aug 23, 2013 4:20 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Aug 23, 2013 6:08 PM EDT|
COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - These saw palmetto berries hold a lot of potential.
"This is a very important food source for the bears and other wildlife in Florida's ecosystems," said Jorge Pino, spokesperson with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
They also help migrant workers and their families.
"We're just looking for something to bring to our family to feed our families making money with the berries," said Juan Suarez.
Juan Suarez used to pick these berries. Now he buys them from others and sells them to health and nutrition companies who believe the berries can help fight prostate cancer. But he said collecting them is a dangerous job.
"All the snakes, spiders, whatever, all the animals living in the woods," Suarez said.
Not to mention illegal if picking on private property or protected land. Just this week, Florida Fish and Wildlife officials arrested Edius Audate for allegedly picking 427 pounds of berries on private property. They're worth more than 350 dollars. FWC officials said they caught the 42 year old doing the same thing at Rookery Bay Preserve in 2010.
"If you're doing it the right way, if you are lawfully picking these berries with the proper permits or with permission from the owner we don't have a problem with you doing that," said Pino.
The berries sell anywhere from 70 to 90 cents a pound.
"It could be profitable but again at what cost youre doing an enormous amount of damage to the resources?" Pino said.
"Enough to feed my family," said Suarez.
The Division of Forestry issues the permit to pick the berries. Without the permit picking illegally is a second degree misdemeanor.