Two jailed for 103 conch

Two men from Lower Valley were sent to prison for three months after pleading guilty on Tuesday to taking 103 conch in one day.

Eugene Barnes, 36, and Larry Bennett, 35, admitted taking the conch from the Frank Sound area on 12 November.

Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said she was handing down the term of imprisonment because, in her view, a fine was insufficient to deter other offenders from poaching.

Bennett and Barnes told the court it was coming up to Christmas and they took the conch to prepare food for a family get together.

Asked if they understood the reason for the Marine Conservation Law, Barnes suggested it was to preserve the stock of marine life for future generations. Bennett concurred.

The magistrate said offences of poaching were no different than theft and she regarded them as stealing conch from the people of these Islands to whom the conch equally belonged.

They had 10 times the permissible amount of conch, she pointed out, and there were no extenuating circumstances. They also had with them a hook stick. The only mitigating feature was their guilty plea.

The Court was of the view that a deterrent sentence was necessary because of the prevalence of the offence and the widespread disregard of the Marine Conservation Law with the concomitant threat to the local stock of conch, lobster and other marine life which the law was designed to protect.

The Marine Conservation Law states clearly: Whoever takes from Cayman waters in any one day more than five conch is guilty of an offence. Taking any conch during the months of May through October is also an offence.

Barnes and Bennett also pleaded guilty to taking one lobster the same day, which was during closed season.

Further, Barnes admitted possession of an unlicensed speargun – the hook stick – and taking marine life with an unlicensed speargun.

For all of the other offences, the men received three months imprisonment, but all terms were made to run concurrently.