FWC cracks down on backdoor buying, selling of saltwater fish
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Media contact: Gabriella B. Ferraro, 772-215-9459
Five employees at four Palm Beach County
restaurants face misdemeanor charges as a result of a five-month
investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) into the illegal buying and selling of saltwater
Working on information obtained by licensed fish
dealers and fishermen, FWC investigators initiated "Operation West
Palm Snook." Their surveillance efforts verified that employees
from several local restaurants were involved in the illegal buying
of restricted, prohibited or protected saltwater fish species,
including goliath grouper and snook, a popular game fish, from
The first phase of the investigation occurred in
late September, when FWC investigators posed as fishermen and sold
approximately 32 pounds of snook - from the FWC's research lab - to
several restaurants and retailers in the West Palm Beach area. At
that time, an employee of one of the restaurants, King's Super
Buffet Chinese Gourmet, bought 23 pounds of snook for $49.
Investigators used the information gleaned during these visits in
the second phase of the operation.
Last month, investigators returned to those
locations where violations were determined or reported. Undercover
investigators again sold restricted and protected fish, including
snook. The FWC issued citations to employees at King's Super Buffet
Chinese Gourmet and China Taste in West Palm Beach, Peppermint Thai
and Sushi in Royal Palm Beach, and Kingdom Buffet in Lake
The buying and selling of snook is prohibited in
Florida. The recreational snook season is also closed; no one may
legally possess the species until the season opens Sept. 1.
Goliath grouper is a prohibited species. No one may
possess, buy or sell goliath grouper. Only catch-and-release
activities are allowed.
"The backdoor sales of saltwater products by
unlicensed people have a negative effect on licensed dealers and
fishermen," said FWC investigations Capt. Jeff Ardelean.
"Additionally, saltwater products illegally bought and sold pose
potential health risks to the public. The rules are in place to
protect and conserve the species for the long term."