Pair arrested for illegal oystering

Two Carrabelle residents were arrested July 21 and booked into the Franklin County jail for oystering in permanently closed waters at Eastpoint.

Ottis E. Russell, 47, and Sonya Starr Murray, 52, face charges for oystering in prohibited area, harvesting oysters between sunset and sunrise, and possession of unculled oysters. Russell was also charged with resisting arrest without violence and possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Resource Protection Service officers John Allen Jr. and Matt Gore watched Russell and Murray collecting oysters after dark near Eastpoint Channel. The two were arrested at midnight when they brought in seven bags of oysters.

Under Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shellfish rules, while some areas of Apalachicola Bay are open to oystering, other areas, such as near Eastpoint Channel, are permanently closed due to water quality issues.

“It’s important for the viability of the commercial oystering industry that consumers have faith that the oysters they consume are taken from approved oystering areas and are as safe as possible,” said Capt. Rob Beaton, FWC law enforcement supervisor. “What the officers did is stop over 500 pounds of potentially contaminated shellfish from entering the market and possibly making someone sick.”

Beaton said officers have made more than a dozen similar arrests over the last couple of months for oystering in closed areas.

Net fishermen busted at Alligator Point

During the last week of July, FWC officers cited two men for violating terms of the net ban while fishing off Alligator Point.

Officers Anderson and Allen were patrolling off the Point when they observed a net boat working along the shore line. As they watched, the vessel with two men on board deployed its nets several times, which were connected and being fished from the vessel. The officers watched as the net boat deployed the nets three or four times and each time the nets were deployed and retrieved as one continuous net.

During the surveillance, the officers contacted Officer Gore who responded in a vessel so that an inspection of the net boat could be conducted. There were four nylon nets connected on board. There were also 120 pounds of mullet. The nets and mullet were seized and both individuals were cited for connecting two nets to exceed 500 square feet and fishing more than two nets from a vessel.

The fish were sold to the highest bidder. A measurement of the connected nets indicated more than 2,300 square feet of net were being fished from the vessel. Additional charges of fishing over 2,000 square feet will be direct filed.