|Deputy Stullken with coolers in the truck.|
Deputies on foot patrol on Big Pine Key arrested a man after finding he was in violation of his saltwater products license.
Deputies Donald Stullken and Wendy Negron were patrolling at an area known as the Horseshoe at the 35 mile marker of the highway at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. They spotted a man in a wetsuit, wading in waist deep water with a five gallon bucket. A woman was on shore nearby holding a mesh bag that appeared to be half filled. When the deputies asked what they were doing, the man, later identified as 33 year old Jonathan Pessas of Clearwater, Florida, said he was collecting marine invertebrates. He told the deputies he has a license, but could not produce it. In the back of his pickup truck there were numerous coolers with battery powered air hoses running to them. In the coolers were numerous species of marine life including soft coral, snails, sea urchins, sea cucumber, starfish, crabs and scallops.
Deputy Stullken called the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to check on the status of any licenses Pessas might have. FWC confirmed he does have a saltwater products license with a marine life endorsement. FWC Officer Adam Garrison told Deputy Stullken that Pessas was required to collect the marine life from the boat that is registered with the license; he said Pessas is not allowed to harvest marine life wading along the shore without the boat.
Approximately 1,300 live marine animals were returned to the water. Marijuana was found in Pessas truck, including 16 grams in the glove compartment which he said was his and 8 grams in a purse in the truck. The purse belonged to his girlfriend, Nicole 27 year old Hajewski. Pessas was charged with five counts of the applicable marine violation, Florida Statute 379.401.2a. He was also charged with possession of marijuana and he was booked into jail. Hajewski was issued a notice to appear in court for possessing marijuana.