The Department of Environment wants to make sure that people understand changes in the lobster and conch season laws that are now in effect.
Chief conservation officer Mark Orr said several recent violations have led to a push to educate the public on the new regulations, particularly those affecting the transport of harvested animals between islands.
In the past, it was common practice for people gathering lobster and/or conch on the Sister Islands to put several days worth of their catch into a cooler when they returned to Grand Cayman. But because the law changed in 2016, a person may only have the single-day limit – which is three lobsters or five conch – in their possession at any time.
For instance, while it may be legal for a person to capture nine lobsters over three days on a visit to Little Cayman, that person may only return to Grand Cayman carrying three lobsters.
“The law has been out for two years,” Mr. Orr said, noting it went into effect the year after it was approved by the legislature. “We’re doing a media blitz right now just to get the word out.”
On Jan. 28, the department said in a news release, customs officers who searched passengers from Little Cayman and Cayman Brac arriving at Owen Roberts International Airport “found certain individuals who had exceeded their daily possession limits. Five people were warned for prosecution and several more were given verbal warnings.”
Two other such incidents took place at the airport this week, Mr. Orr said.
Mr. Orr said the Department of Environment also is cracking down on illegal spearfishing.
In a case on Jan. 19, officials seized 54 fish of various species, as well as one lobster. Officers said the fish were caught with a speargun.
“In addition to exceeding his daily catch limit of three fish, the individual licensed to use the speargun allowed two other men to use the weapon, in contravention of the owner’s licence conditions,” the department release said.
Scott Slaybaugh, the DoE’s deputy director for operations and enforcement, said spear gun license-holders who do not follow their license conditions “risk losing the privilege to possess these weapons” and may face prosecution.
The fish and lobster seized in this operation were donated to the Pines Retirement Home, according to the DoE.
The case has been referred for prosecution.
Penalties for illegal taking of lobster or conch can be as much as $500,000 and four years in prison, although actual penalties in recent cases have not approached those levels.
Mr. Orr said $1,500 was the highest fine he was aware of.
At least one case, he said, resulted in a six-month suspended sentence.
Violators have also received community service, and some boats and vehicles have been impounded or forfeited.
“A lot of offenders are repeat offenders,” he said. “We see the same people over and over and over again.”
Lobster season runs through Feb. 28. Conch season ends April 30.
To report suspected marine violations, call 911. On Grand Cayman, the public can also call Mr. Orr at 916-4271. Little Cayman violations can also be reported to Mike Guderian at 925-0185.