|Published:||Jul 13, 2012 10:38 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Jul 13, 2012 11:05 PM EDT|
COLLIER COUNTY, Fla - A commercial fisherman is slapped with a $32,500 fine after an undercover sting by FWC.
Jonathan Cannon was found guilty of illegal netting violations, a misdemeanor crime, for catching 6,500 pounds of mullet off a Marco Island Beach in January.
This week, a Collier County judge handed out the largest fine ever given out in a case like this.
State law changed about ten years ago making it illegal for commercial fishermen to connect nets in order to real in fish.
Now, for the first time, we're seeing the true consequence of breaking that law and one local charter captain tells WINK News he hopes this case sets a president for future violators.
In January of 2012, FWC officials got a tip that commercial fishermen from Manatee County were illegally netting mullet off Tigertail Beach in Marco Island.
FWC investigators used night vision and thermal vision to catch Cannon and two others out on the water in the middle of the night.
"Their intent was to gather as many fish as fast as possible and to be able to sell them and make a profit before they left Collier County," says Assistant State Attorney Brian Mortenson.
Since this is Cannon's second offense within 24 months, Judge Rob Crown fined him $5 per pound of fish, netting a total fine of $32,500.
Following the judge's ruling FWC released the following written statement to WINK News. "By illegally using multiple nets as one, Mr. Cannon was depleting the resource and future opportunities of legitimate commercial fishermen."
State statute states if someone violates that law twice within a two year period they be fined $5 per pound of fish.
"I think it's harsh, but a necessary example to set to people that are doing this out of the sunshine, cheating, stealing from you and me," says Captain Matthew Hoover.
Captain Hoover owns and operates Night Flight Fishing Charters, Inc. out of Goodland. He was behind the grassroots movement ten years ago to ban this illegal netting.
"A gil net you must understand takes everything. Once it goes in that net, it's as good as dead," says Hoover.
Hoover says those who illegally net mullet directly impact charter boats like his by depleting the fish population he depends on to run his business.
"It makes it bad for everybody, especially everybody who is playing by the rules. In the past these violators would get a glorified slap on the wrist so maybe they're trying to set an example," says Hoover.
The two other men with Cannon that night are awaiting trial.