Man Pleads Guilty to Illegally Importing and Harvesting Coral

MIAMI – A Lake Park, Fla., man pled guilty in Federal District Court in West Palm Beach, Fla., Thursday to charges of illegal importation of approximately 500 pounds of live rock, coral, and sea fans illegally harvested from Bahamian waters in Oct. 2002.

Lawrence W. Beckman, 57, faces a possible statutory maximum sentence of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and three years probation. Beckman is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 20.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bluefin spotted the vessel Mary Anne running without required navigation lights and proceeded to intercept the vessel. During a safety and document check, they located the corals in specially equipped live wells and in a converted fuel tank below a hatch cover in the main cabin. The Mary Anne, Beckman and the crew were taken to Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet.

Beckman admitted to the Coast Guard boarding team that he had left Lake Worth Inlet on a commercial harvesting trip to an area approximately one-and-a-half miles east of Sandy Cay, Bahamas and that he didn’t possess a permit from the Bahamas allowing him to harvest marine resources from Bahamian waters. Beckman was to acquire merchandise to sell in his aquarium supply business located in Lake Park. After gathering the 500 specimens of sea fans, and 500 pounds of live rock and coral, Beckman headed back to Lake Worth Inlet.

The Government of the Bahamas, under the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Regulations of the Commonwealth, Section 19, prohibits any person from taking or selling any hard or soft coral without the written permission of the Minister of Fisheries. This measure is intended to allow for the monitoring, control, and conservation of the coral resources of the Bahamian archipelagic waters. The protection extends to all coral rock, which is an invertebrate within the phylum coelenterate. The Lacey Act, the oldest national wildlife protection law in the United States, among other things, prohibits the possession, import, and transport of wildlife, including the corals involved in this case, which has been taken or possessed in violation of a conservation law of a foreign country.

“The conservation of marine ecosystems will always be a high priority for our fisheries enforcement program in District Seven,” said Lt. Chad Brick from the Coast Guard District Seven Office of Law Enforcement. “Our relationship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continues to be a key element for effective enforcement.”

The Cutter Bluefin is an 87-foot patrol boat homeported in Fort Pierce, Fla.

Editors Note: Alicia Valle and Yovanny Lopez of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Souther Florida contributed to this report.

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