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Contact: Linda Friar, 305-242-7714
Ramsey L. Kelley of Naples pled guilty recently to a single count of taking protected saltwater fish species in the southwest section of Everglades National Park. Kelly illegally harvested four goliath grouper and five undersize, out-of-season snook from the Gopher Creek area. Rangers received an anonymous tip about the fish and through investigation were able to charge Mr. Kelley. The United States Magistrate ordered Kelly to pay $1850 in fines and restitution and banned Kelley from Everglades National Park for two years. Kelley is currently serving a one-year prison sentence on unrelated charges.
There have been other recent poaching events in the Gopher Creek area and rangers are aggressively pursuing these. Possession of illegal fish in the park is a Class B misdemeanor which carries a maximum penalty of $5000 and six months in prison for each charge. Additionally, the Lacey Act is invoked when the poached species have a commercial value greater than $350. This is a felony which carries a maximum fine of $20,000, five years in prison, and forfeiture of vessels and vehicles involved in transporting the illegal harvest. Under state law, poachers can also lose their hunting and fishing privileges in Florida as well as 23 other states which have signed a cooperative “Wildlife Violator Compact”.
Poaching hurts the resource and honest sportsmen, and park visitors are encouraged to contact the Park Service (1-305-242-7740) or Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (1-888-404-3922) with information about poaching.