Palmetto Bay Resident Pleads Guilty and Is Sentenced for Illegal Spearfishing Activity
On November 1, 2016, a Palmetto Bay resident pled guilty and was sentenced for illegal spearfishing activity in Key Largo, Florida.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Tracy Dunn, Assistant Director, NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, made the announcement.
Tone Calle, 52, of Palmetto Bay, Florida, pled guilty to impeding and interfering with a law enforcement officer within the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, contrary to the Marine Protection and Sanctuaries Act, Title 16, United States Code, Section 1436(3)(B). Following the plea, United States District Court Judge K. Michael Moore sentenced Calle to two years’ probation and ordered him to pay a criminal fine of $2,500. Calle will forfeit his spearfishing gear to the United States government.
According to the court record, including the criminal Information, a joint factual statement and information presented during proceedings, in May 2014, Calle was aboard his vessel within the Special Management Zone in Key Largo (KLMA), part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. A Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Officer, cross-designated to enforce sanctuary laws and regulations, observed Calle’s anchored vessel and noted it was displaying a “diver down flag.” Calle was seen in the water wearing a camouflage diving suit while tethered to a spearfishing float. As the Officer neared the vessel, Calle dove out of sight, and subsequently resurfaced and boarded his vessel empty-handed. Calle denied engaging in any spearfishing activity at the site, although inspection revealed several spear guns aboard the vessel and speared fish in a cooler. Initially, only a written warning was given by the officer, noting that it was a violation of Sanctuary regulations to be anchored in the KLMA with spearfishing equipment aboard the vessel.
However, further investigation revealed that since Calle had, upon boarding his vessel, immediately weighed anchor, the vessel had drifted from the original point of contact. The officer had marked the initial contact point on a GPS receiver and shortly thereafter returned to the coordinates and dove the site. The officer immediately located a fully rigged customized spear gun on the bottom, similar to those seen on Calle’s vessel.
Later review of a public web site maintained by Calle, to promote his spearfishing guiding activities and his manufacture and sale of spear guns, revealed photographs depicting Calle both in the water and on land, displaying a customized spear gun exhibiting the unique camouflage patter of the weapon seized in the KLMA.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.