Florida lobster poachers sent to jail; will pay 1.1 million USD to restore marine sanctuaryA married couple based in Florida Keys have been sentenced to prison for lobster poaching and will have to pay 1.1 million USD to restore the marine sanctuary in which they carried out their illegal activities.

The husband was sentenced to 30 months in prison since he was he was deemed to be the ringleader while his wife got away with 7 months in prison and 7 months of house arrest. They will also forfeit three vessels and three vehicles. In a parallel civil action, the couple was ordered to pay $1.1 million toward the restoration of coral and sea grasses in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The couple was indicted last year on a conspiracy charge together with four other lobster-poachers. The six were arrested on the first day of the lobster season after federal agents caught them using hut-like ”casitas” to illegally harvest spiny lobsters from the sanctuary.

In the government’s probe, dubbed Operation Freezer Burn, agents found that the poaching – which had been carried out for two days – had resulted in 1,187 spiny lobsters being caught and stored in freezers at the couple’s home. According to the investigation, the retail market value for such a catch is $21,662 USD.

The couple and three others pleaded guilty, while one defendant was convicted at trial. The couple is expected to raise the money by selling their Cudjoe Key home and another property on Little Torch Key.