One diver died and another man was injured in separate incidents as Florida’s lobster miniseason opened Wednesday, authorities said.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office tweeted that the diver died early Wednesday while preparing to harvest spiny lobsters off the Florida Keys. In the other case, a man was airlifted from the lower Keys to a Miami hospital after a boat propeller struck him in the leg.
Authorities didn’t release more details, nor identify the victims.
The two-day event — held on the last Wednesday and Thursday in July — attracts thousands of people to the Florida Keys where the spiny crustacean is a local delicacy, the Miami Herald reported.
Many waited patiently aboard boats for the stroke of midnight so they could begin hauling in lobster using a technique known as bully netting, sticking long-poled nets into the shallows to scoop up the creatures.
Others chose to snorkel for lobster, waiting until daylight because the law prohibits night diving during the hunt.
“It’s what we’ve been doing for 10 years,” Brian Parsons, who came with two friends from Fort Myers, said before dawn.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission crews were on hand to make sure everyone obeyed the rules. Starting early is a second-degree misdemeanor that could land violators in jail for up to 60 days and bring a fine of up to $500.
“We’re just checking to make sure everybody stays within the rules and regulations and does it right,” wildlife officer Joshua Stallings told the newspaper.
No arrests were made in the final hours of Tuesday night, the Herald reported.
In the Keys, the bag limit for spiny lobster is six per person, per boat, the Herald reported. For the rest of the state, with the exception of Biscayne National Park, the limit is 12 lobsters per person, per vessel.
Father and son team Steve and Reece Jahn of Plantation Key Colony reached their limit quickly.
“I think we got it in 30 minutes. We got lucky this year,” Steve Jahn said.
- If the carapace or shell of the lobster is not 3 inches or more you can’t harvest them.
- Divers must possess a measuring device, and lobsters must be in the water while they are measured.
- Taking egg-bearing females is prohibited.
- The spiny lobsters must remain in whole condition until they are brought to shore. Any device that might puncture, penetrate or crush the shell of the lobster may not be used.
- Night diving is not allowed in Monroe County.
- You must have a recreational saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit.
- Safety equipment such as flares, life jackets, and fire extinguishers are required to be onboard the vessel.
- Dive flags must be utilized with a measurement of 20 x 24 inches mounted on the highest point of boat, and 12 x 12 inches if the flag is in the water.
Click here for more lobster miniseason rules and regulations from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.