PLANTATION KEY, August 2, 2019 – A Miami man found with a trove of illegally caught marine life has pleaded out to several charges and been ordered to jail.
Monroe County Judge Sharon Hamilton sentenced Juan Aro, 46, to 45 days in the Monroe County Detention Center on July 31 after Aro pleaded no contest to spearing lobster, possession of lobster out of season, five counts of possession of undersized lobster, harvesting mangrove snapper over the bag limit, possession of undersized schoolmaster snapper, possession of undersized mangrove snapper and spearfishing in a no-spearfishing zone. Assistant State Attorney Taylor Loe represented the state.
The afternoon of July 8, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Jorge Larios Jr. received a tip via text about people spearfishing near the Tavernier Creek Bridge at mile marker 91 of U.S. 1. When he arrived, he found Aro snorkeling the water adjacent to shore while holding a spear gun. He was with a man on land.
Once out of the water, Larios, Aro and the other man walked to Aro’s sport utility vehicle so he could retrieve his identification for the officer. As that happened, Larios asked them if they had any fish in the truck; both said no – which wasn’t true. The other man told Larios they were merely trying out the spear gun, which they said was new. There were also fishing poles in the vehicle.
Larios then asked, twice, if he could look in the vehicle’s rear and both men said yes each time. Aro opened the tailgate, which revealed two coolers. Larios again asked if they had any fish and they again said no. Aro opened one cooler, which had beer in it. Then he opened the other one, telling Larios it had only bait in it.
But in it, Larios saw a small shark and “part of what I could identify as a spiny lobster,” he wrote in his report. When asked about it, Aro mentioned only the shark. Larios removed the cooler from the vehicle and waited for fellow FWC Officer Brittany Mobley to arrive.
When she did, Larios did a deep dive into the cooler with the shark and found seven lobsters (six undersized), 13 mangrove snapper (nine undersized), two schoolmaster snapper (both undersize) and other fish, which were legal.
Upon further questioning by Larios, Aro admitted to harvesting the lobster using fishing line with a hook attached (technically spearing, which is not allowed for lobster), as well as some of the fish. The other man, Ariel Aro, admitting to catching some of the fish.
Juan Aro was charged and taken to jail. Ariel Aro was given citations for mangrove snapper over the bag limit and undersized mangrove snapper and schoolmaster snapper; his charges are pending.
In addition to jail, Juan Aro will serve six months of probation, is not allowed on or in Monroe County waters while on probation, and must pay a $100 fine and various court costs.