A man who admitted taking marine life illegally was sentenced on Monday to perform one hour of community service for every conch, lobster and fish he was found with last Oct. 9 in the waters off East End.
Magistrate Valdis Foldats ordered a total of 191 hours after hearing that Jameil Rankine was found with a vessel containing 171 conch, 19 fish and one lobster.
The fish were illegal because they had been taken with a Hawaiian sling, which is considered to be a speargun, and it was unlicensed.
The lobster was illegal because it was taken during closed season, which runs from March 1 to Nov. 30.
Closed season for conch is May 1 to Oct. 30, so they too were taken out of season. Moreover, Rankine admitted knowing that the limit per boat is 10.
Crown counsel Scott Wainwright said a vessel was seen off the coast near Tukka restaurant. Two men were snorkeling and appeared to be taking marine life from the water and putting it in the boat.
Officers kept the vessel under observation and subsequently spoke with Rankine. When cautioned, he said he had a child to support and was looking for a job. He estimated there were 80 conch in the boat, of which he had taken possibly 30. In fact, officers counted 171 conch, along with the other marine life.
In court, Rankine asked the magistrate for a fine, explaining that he had just started a new job.
The magistrate referred to a social inquiry report that indicated the defendant did not think he had committed a crime. He had been raised in a family of fishermen and told the interviewer, “The water belongs to all.”
The magistrate said that attitude caused him concern because taking the large quantity of conch and the other marine life was a crime of stealing. Marine life is now a scarce resource, he said, and the whole purpose of the Marine Conservation Law was to ensure that something would be left for future generations.
This was the first marine offense for Rankine, 23, so he was not looking at jail, the magistrate told him. A fine would be too easy because it would be a case of “pay and go.” The sentence had to bring home the message to the defendant and to others that marine life offenses are serious.
It was for this reason that the magistrate came up with the hourly calculation for community service and gave Rankine one year in which to complete the work.
Failure to comply would mean being brought back to court, at which point jail would be an option, the magistrate advised.