A man who took too many conch while on bail for taking conch during closed season was jailed on Wednesday for 120 days.

Hank Thomas Jose Ebanks, 34, pleaded guilty to both charges. Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn indicated she was giving him the usual one-third discount for his guilty pleas.

Ebanks admitted taking 83 conch and one lobster in the Rum Point area on Oct. 9, 2015. This was during the closed season, when no taking of any marine life was allowed.

On that occasion he gave a “no comment” interview and was bailed, Crown counsel Claire Wetton told the court.

In March 2016, while on bail, Ebanks took 41 conch within a 24-hour period, again from Rum Point. The limit is five per day, Ms. Wetton noted.

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This time when interviewed by police, Ebanks told them, “I was hungry. I went out and got some conch because I was hungry.”

In court this week, the magistrate asked him why he had taken so many conch.

“I gotta pay bills – eat, too,” he replied.

“I know it’s against the law,” Ebanks continued, “but I’m not going to rob anybody or break into somebody’s house and take what they worked hard for.”

He added that taking conch was “something I grew up doing.”

The magistrate adjourned briefly to obtain a probation report about the defendant. When court resumed, she reminded him that these were not his first offenses against marine conservation legislation – he had a conviction from 2013 for an unlicensed speargun.

The magistrate pointed out further that Ebanks had been on probation at the time of these offenses. She asked if he had completed a community service order for 60 hours and he confirmed that he had. She asked if he had attended an anger management course and he said he had been to some sessions, but acknowledged he had not graduated.

Questioned further, Ebanks said he had gone to counseling, had provided samples for drug testing and had ceased using cocaine. He admitted two charges of failing to surrender to custody.

In passing sentence, the magistrate said she would describe as “significant” the number of conch Ebanks had taken. The aggravating factor for the first offense was that it was committed during closed season. The aggravating factor for the second offense was that it was committed while on bail for the first offense.

In both cases, the amount of conch taken was not for personal consumption. “You took it for financial gain, albeit to pay bills,” she told Ebanks.

Another aggravating factor was that the offenses were committed while he was on probation. On the other hand, the single most mitigating factor was Ebanks pleading guilty, thus saving the time of the court and everyone who would have been involved in a trial.

The magistrate said the sentence she passed had to be a deterrent to Ebanks and a deterrent to the public. It had to make plain that such offenses will not be tolerated because they have a significant effect on marine life. Laws had been passed so that the next generation would benefit from marine life, she pointed out.

“We must reflect society’s displeasure at this offending,” she said.

Ebanks’s first offense would have attracted 60 days’ imprisonment after trial, but with credit for his guilty plea it would be 40 days, with seven days concurrent for the lobster. The sentence for the second offense would have been 120 days, but with credit it was 80 days. The total sentence was 120 days plus 14 days for failing to surrender to custody.

To complete the sentencing exercise, she noted that Ebanks had spent time on curfew and gave him 14 days credit for that. The final sentence was therefore 120 days.

Ebanks thanked the magistrate as he was returned to the cells.

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  1. In these cases, and there are many of them, the accused should be required to give details of the businesses that buy the conch /lobster off them, or have their sentences doubled. Without a ready market wholesale theft of protected marine life would not be so prevalent.

  2. Roger I agree with your comment, but the Government needs to broaden and enforce the marine conservation Laws to where ANYONE who’s caught buying and selling illegally caught marine life would pay and serve the same prison term and fines . Then the marine resources might have a chance to win. Until then the poachers would continue . I think that it’s not only business that buy illegal catches, that why the Law should be broaden to include any and everyone.

  3. We also need to come up with a program where someone such as Mr Ebanks does not go to jail. He clearly is trying to feed his family. Can we have him “paint” road lines or pick up garbage instead of having him sit in jail?

  4. I remember going out several times on Captain Marvin’s boat over 30 years ago on the North Sound

    Maybe 20 people on the boat. We were all told to find some conch. There were so many in 10 minutes we would only keep the best 3 each for cooking.

    Go out today and you’ll look around in the same place to find any.

    I know it’s tough when wants to put food on the table. But if people keep taking the few conch that are left, a few years from now there won’t be any left.

    Now if he wants to hunt for LIONFISH or feral chicken…. Be my guest.