Less than a week into lobster season, state and federal law enforcement officers were busy over the weekend with alleged poachers.
In the first of two cases, Coast Guard crew members arrested two men after finding 40 illegally speared lobsters hidden in the bilge of a 20-foot center-console boat, according to a Coast Guard press release.
The Coast Guard boarded the boat for a safety inspection when they found the lobsters and notified Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers, as the Coast Guard does not enforce state conservation laws.
Otniel Doimeadios, 45, of Hialeah, was charged with resisting an officer and possessing illegal lobsters. David Perez, 47, of Miami, was charged with three counts of possession of lobsters over the bag limit. All are misdemeanors.
Both suspects were taken to the Monroe County detention facility in Marathon.
On Sunday in Islamorada, two Miami men were arrested after a Sheriff's Office marine officer caught them robbing traps off Lower Matecumbe Key, according to Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Deputy Becky Herrin.
A deputy was patrolling when he spotted the two men diving near a power pole without a dive flag at 3:40 p.m., Herrin said. As the deputy drove closer to them, the suspects spotted him and reportedly started acting nervously.
The deputy saw a couple of traps near where the men were diving, and reportedly saw a white bag on the bottom near the traps. When he pulled the bag to the surface with his boat hook, he found small lobster tails inside, Herrin said.
While the deputy watched the two men, the FWC officer who arrived as backup dove in and saw hand prints in the thick silt covering the traps, indicating someone had been recently tampering with them, Herrin said.
The men at first claimed they'd gotten the tails from the base of the power pole. When the deputy asked them if they had "at least closed the trap" after taking the lobster, one of the men assured the deputy he had closed the trap after removing the lobster.
Alejandro Chao-Garcia, 25, and Hugo Diaz-Gallardo, 41, were charged with possessing undersized lobster and possession of wrung tails on the water. Garcia was further charged with molesting traps and tampering with evidence for dropping a bag overboard as the officer approached.
Both were taken to Monroe County Detention Center in Plantation Key.