August 03, 2015
Press Release CCA
On July 29, 2015, officers from the Charlotte County Sheriffs' Marine Unit found themselves involved in a high speed chase through pitch black Charlotte Harbor as they tracked down 4 men accused of illegal gill netting. The officers were conducting an operation to stop the netting in the Alligator Creek area. Deputies Hargrove and Griffin from Charlotte County, were listening for outboard engines operating in the area. Using night vision goggles they discovered commercial boats working the area with no lights.
According to Deputy Hargrove, the second boat fled while removing a gill net and throwing fish over the side. Charlotte County Sheriffs' Aviation, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement (FWC) and U.S. Coast Guard were all called out to assist. Upon returning to the area off Alligator Creek, towing the subject vessel, officers located the gill net with the assistance of FWC. As the gill net was removed from the water officers released 11Bull Sharks, 1 Gar, 2 Pompano and 1 Stone Crab alive. Also tangled in the gill net dead were numerous Bull Sharks, Skates, Catfish, Ladyfish, Horseshoe Crabs, Pompano, Jack, Whiting, Threadfins, and Flounder.
"The officers did a great job of coordinating their assets in the arrest," said, Bill Camp CCA Florida Chairman.
In November 1994 an overwhelming 72% of Florida voters said yes to the constitutional amendment limiting marine net fishing. The amendment includes both a prohibition on the use of gill and entangling nets in all state waters and a size limit on other nets. Although the restrictions have been in place for more than twenty years, there are still factions within the commercial industry who refuse to accept the legal reality that the constitutional prohibition on gill nets means no gill nets.
"These net poachers just never give up", said Camp. "The damage they can do to fisheries and habitat is substantial and we hope that the illegal actions by the gill netters will be charged to the fullest extent of the law."
CCA Florida commends the brave officers who risked chasing these criminals across Charlotte Harbor in the dark to stop the continued slaughter of our coastal resources. We trust the State Attorney's office will seek the maximum penalties allowed.