MARATHON, January 6, 2020 – A Marathon commercial fisherman can no longer fish in Florida at all and is in jail after pleading out to more than 200 lobster and other marine-related violations.
In a negotiated plea on January 3, Alfredo Gonzalez, 50, pleaded no contest to a felony charge of possessing more than 100 undersized lobsters and misdemeanor charges of possessing undersized lobster, possessing undersized lobster in a live well, possessing hogfish out of season, possessing undersized hogfish and having improperly marked lobster buoys. Overall, he pleaded to the one felony and 233 misdemeanors.
Acting Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Ruth Becker placed him on probation for five years, with 364 days of that confined to the Monroe County Detention Center; revoked his Florida fishing privileges for life; and banned him from Monroe County waters, including swimming, diving and fishing (including from land), while on probation.
She also fined him $1,000; ordered him to pay $448 in court costs and $200 for the costs of the investigation and prosecution; and ordered him to perform eight hours of community service monthly while on probation and to take a state-certified marine-resources education course. Assistant State Attorney Kelly Dugan represented the state.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers arrested Gonzalez on January 13, 2018, after they pulled over his commercial fishing boat for a routine resources inspection in Gulf of Mexico waters in the Middle Keys.
On the boat were 379 undersized lobsters in containers and 173 commercial lobster traps. By law, commercial vessels are allowed to have 50 undersized lobsters plus one undersized lobster for each trap to be used as attractants. That meant Gonzalez would have been allowed to have 223 undersized lobsters aboard as attractants; he was over by 156. Gonzalez admitted to the FWC officers he knew he had too many undersized lobsters.
The FWC officers also discovered three undersized and out-of-season hogfish and found his lobster-trap buoys did not meet state requirements for proper markings. He was arrested and taken to jail, and will get credit on his jail sentence for one day served in custody.