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Two men arrested after dolphin calf found dead in illegal net near Gandy Beach

Gill nets aren't allowed in Florida waters.
Credit: Pinellas County Jail / FWC

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Editor's Note: The below story contains a graphic image provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It shows a dead dolphin calf. Audience discretion is advised.

Two people from Tampa have been arrested and accused of using a gill net to capture several fish and a bottlenose dolphin calf.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shared photos of the dead animals following its investigation into the matter. Bottlenose dolphins are federally protected, so the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has also been contacted.

According to law enforcement, Yunior C. Rosales Morales, 30, and Yandie Concepcion, 34, were found with three monofilament entanglement nets – measuring a combined total of 3,125 square feet. They were booked into the Pinellas County Jail on the following charges:

  • Felony - illegal use of gill net
  • Felony - failure to transit gill net
  • Felony - possession of gill net on vessel less than 22-foot
  • Misdemeanor - stop netting
  • Seven misdemeanors - snook out of season
  • Seven misdemeanors - llegal method of take for snook
  • Six misdemeanors - undersize snook
  • Three misdemeanors - redfish out of season
  • Misdemeanor - oversize redfish
  • Misdemeanor - over the bag limit of bonnet head sharks
  • Misdemeanor - illegal method of take for shark
  • Misdemeanor - major violation pertaining to snook and redfish

The maximum penalty for each third-degree felony charge is five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Each second-degree misdemeanor comes with a potential penalty of up to 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.

Authorities say the arrests were the result of law enforcement surveillance and anonymous tips to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline. 

Credit: FWC

“Our officers work hard to protect Florida’s precious natural resources and egregious violations such as these are reminders of why our work is so important,” SW Regional Commander, Maj. Roger Young wrote in a statement. “The use of this type of fishing gear is not only illegal but it is harmful to fish and wildlife by indiscriminately killing much of the fish and wildlife that become entangled in it.”

The gear and boat used in connection with the alleged crimes have been seized by FWC, according to authorities.

"Gill nets are any net constructed wholly or partially of monofilament material other than a cast net or a landing dip net," FWC explained. "They are typically vertical sections of net that are stretched out on a rope suspended by a float and typically work by 'gilling' the fish and entangling them within the mesh. With the exception of very small fish that escape through the mesh, the majority of marine life that becomes entangled in the net die. This type of net can be especially devastating for sea turtles and marine mammals. 

A constitutional amendment banning these types of nets in Florida took effect in 1995. And, violations are a felony.

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