MIAMI (CBS4) – Lobster lovers across South Florida are hitting the water for the second day of Florida’s annual two-day lobster mini-season which ends at the stroke of midnight.
Wednesday, the mini-season got off to a slow start due to some rough weather and choppy water.
A Massachusetts man died while diving off the coast of the Upper Florida Keys on the opening morning of the mini-season. Mark Fountain, 54, became separated from his 34-year-old son and his son’s girlfriend while diving off Tavernier.
The choppy water also caused at least two boats to capsize; one off Government Cut and one off Bear Cut. A total of five divers on both boats had to be rescued.
“It was rough out there, you can see the skies are gray and it was bad,” diver Jorge Yanes said. “The weather was bad.”
But that didn’t stop divers from their next catch.
“There are a lot of lobsters out there,” diver Alex Matos said. “It’s a lot of fun, but we’re heading back in for a little while so we can recuperate ourselves and we’re headed right back out.”
Back on dry land, CBS4’s Jorge Estevez caught up with two women who were out handling lobsters, but it wasn’t for them. It was for science.
“We are trying to determine if the lobsters have a virus,” Dr. Lisa Krimsky with the University of Florida said. “For juvenile lobsters it increases their mortality greatly for adult lobsters it changes their behavior.”
But not to worry, the lobsters are still safe to eat. And that’s good news for divers.
Along with divers and snorkelers there’s also law enforcement officials who are making sure all those lobster lovers conduct the underwater hunt legally.
FWC warns boaters not to put the lobster hunt ahead of safety.
To help keep things legal, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission official are using specially trained dogs to conduct boat inspections. The dogs are trained for game detection and can sniff out resource violations.
“We’re going to have four dogs in the area that are going to be out there making sure that people do the right thing,” said FWC spokesman Jorge Pino. “Unfortunately we have individuals that like to go out there, they get their limit, (but) that’s not enough for them.”
The FWC said the dogs’ noses are so sensitive; they can do in five minutes what would take an officer more than half an hour to do.
“Our dogs are trained to detect wildlife hidden in different compartments in vessels, hidden in dive gear, hidden in vehicles,” said FWC officer Hank Juntunen.
The FWC, along with a host of local and federal law enforcement officers, are patrolling South Florida’s inshore and offshore waters in marked and unmarked boats; overhead in planes and helicopters; and on the roads and boat ramps in vehicles. They will check for boating safety violations and resource poaching.
While diving for lobster is a lot of fun, those in the water must be responsible. Pino said there are plenty of safety rules that boaters and divers need to know before they hit the water in order to stay safe.
“If you are found in violation it’s a second degree misdemeanor, depending on what violation it is, could be six months in jail, up to a $500 fine, we can take all your equipment if we choose to, we can confiscate your vessel if we need to,” said Pino.
The special two-day spiny lobster sport season began at midnight, July 27 and lasts for just 48 hours. It’s followed by the regular lobster season Aug. 6 through March 31.
The special two-day sport season occurs on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July each year to let recreational harvesters collect spiny lobsters before commercial lobster traps are placed in the water on Aug 1.
And if you need more information, just click here for the FWC website for additional rules, regulations and important information about lobster mini-season.