FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stephanie Balian
The Commere Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has charged Alex Canalejo and Randall Sterling, both from Key West, Fla., with illegally placing or abandoning cement-filled PVC tubes and other material on the seabed of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in hopes of creating habitat that attracts lobsters. The men were assessed a combined civil penalty of $75,000 and have 30 days to respond to the charges. The men were caught by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers during routine patrols of the sanctuary waters.
Billy Causey, superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary said, "Sanctuary and ocean dumping laws prohibit the dumping of trash into the sanctuary to create artificial habitat for lobsters. This type of activity can hurt the lobster population by disrupting their behavior and natural habitat in order to create profits for a few individuals."
NOAA is planning a salvage operation to remove the illegal materials from this and dozens of other sites in the Lower Keys. Unless these materials are removed, these activities will continue to harm sanctuary resources and could encourage similar types of sanctuary violations. Dumping materials of any type is a violation of the sanctuary regulations, the National Marine Sanctuary Act, and the Ocean Dumping Act.
This case was developed cooperatively between
for Law Enforcement and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission Enforcement Division.