Man sentenced to 2 months for taking conch

A magistrate sentenced a man who pleaded guilty to taking 95 conch during closed season to two months imprisonment.

Antascio Rankine, 21, who was sentenced Monday, entered his plea via video link from Northward Prison, where he is serving two years for assault.

Magistrate Valdis Foldats said Rankine’s guilty plea meant the three-month sentence he ordinarily would have imposed could be reduced by a third. The judge noted that this offense occurred while the defendant was on bail.

Crown counsel Neil Kumar said Rankine and two other men were arrested on July 7, 2014 in East End after police officers saw them swimming and diving around 200 feet from shore. The men appeared to be removing marine life.

When the men returned to shore, the officers stopped them. They found 95 conch out of their shells in a sack carried by Rankine. Another man was seen carrying diving gear and a hammer. In a search of the nearby area, police found the men’s clothing and possessions, including a plastic bag containing 2.16 grams of ganja. Rankine initially denied knowledge or ownership of the bag, but later pleaded guilty to this charge as well, plus a Feb. 2013 offense of refusing to submit to means of identification.

The conch offense was the most serious, the magistrate noted, because if people kept taking marine life in such quantities, there was not going to be much left. “If you want conch to eat legally, it’s not going to be there,” he said.

For the other offenses, the magistrate imposed terms of one month each, to run concurrently.

The two men arrested with Rankine have not yet been sentenced.