Undercover operation reveals exploitation of Florida fish and wildlife resources
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement officers completed a comprehensive investigation Wednesday that included more than 300 criminal violations by 56 individuals in Putnam, St. Johns, Alachua, Volusia and Marion counties. The 15-month operation targeted individuals who illegally harvested, bought and sold protected species of the state’s fish and wildlife resources.
Charges include 34 felonies and 280 misdemeanors related to buying and selling deer, turtles and saltwater and freshwater fish. Several suspects were booked into local county jails on Wednesday for felony violations.
“Our undercover officers did a phenomenal job identifying individuals who were profiting from the illegal commercialization of fish and wildlife,” said Capt. Gregg Eason, investigative captain for the FWC’s Northeast Region. “When people illegally buy and sell fish and wildlife, they are depleting not only the resource, but also the profits that could be made by legitimate, law-abiding businesses that deal in legal fish and wildlife.”
The FWC is responsible for protecting Florida's abundant natural resources. This case represents the work by FWC investigators and the offices of the state attorney to ensure those resources are managed and protected properly.
“By catching these intentional violators, the FWC is supporting the law-abiding, honest commercial and recreational fishers, recreational hunters and business owners by helping to restore balance in the competition for the resource,” Eason said.