Session 2014
7:00 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Keys Lawmaker Takes On Lobster Mobsters

The penalties may get tougher for illegally catching large numbers of spiny tailed lobsters.
The penalties may get tougher for illegally catching large numbers of spiny tailed lobsters.
Credit Richard Elzey/Flickr

It’s illegal to take lobsters out of season or out of traps that don’t belong to you. But Keys State Representative Holly Raschein (R-Monroe County) says the issue is that the penalty for stealing three lobsters is the same as stealing 300.

RELATED: Inside The Life Of A Florida Keys Lobster Catcher 

Now, Raschein is sponsoring a bill to distinguish between a tourist who unknowingly bags a few lobsters out of season and a so-called "lobster mobster."

“Think of a poacher,” Raschein says. “There’s definitely a black market that exists in South Florida—for many things—but seafood is one of them.”

If passed, HB 47 would up the stakes for anyone possessing 25 or more illegally caught lobsters. The current second-degree misdemeanor charge would become a first-degree misdemeanor, meaning perpetrators could spend up to a year in prison.

Raschein says the goal of her legislation is to protect the legitimate fisherman in the Keys. Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) is sponsoring the Senate version, SB 194.