27 Jul 2004 07:54:29
New rules apply this year; stay 300 feet from shorelines

The annual two-day special sports lobster season descends on the
Florida Keys Wednesday and Thursday and one major new rule goes into
effect - lobsters hunters must remain 300 foot from shorelines
throughout the Keys with the exception of Key West.
Over the past year Monroe County and the cities of Marathon and
Islamorada have enacted ordinances banning any taking of lobster
within 300 feet of shorelines.
Islamorada's rule went into effect before last year's sports lobster
season and village officials say it greatly reduced complaints from
residents about lobster hunters invading private property. The
so-called "mini" lobster season has brought complaints for years about
lobster hunters invading canals and other areas where waterfront homes
exist in the search for the Florida Spiny Lobster that lives under
docks and in areas where there is significant shelter under which they
can hide.
Sports divers chasing lobster within 300-foot of shorelines will be
arrested and fined $50. Local police are mainly responsible for
enforcing the new regulation and the Monroe County Sheriff's Office
will have extra officers on the water for the duration of the two-day
mini season. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Florida
Keys National Marine Sanctuary will have nearly 50 officers on duty to
enforce lobster regulations throughout the Keys. It also has set up
kiosks along U.S. 1 to pass out information on the new rules and
enforcement to sports divers as they come into the Keys.
The county has not marked the 300-foot limit from shorelines and hopes
lobster fishermen will voluntarily comply with the new regulation.