FLORIDA (CBSDFW.COM/CBS Local) – A woman from Dallas, Texas will spend 15 days in jail as punishment for taking 40 queen conchs from the waters that surround Key West.
While it’s not illegal to take queen conch shells from the waters or lands in Florida, it is illegal if the removed shells contain a live animal at the time. Additionally, the mollusk must not be mutilated, removed from its protective shell, or killed before taking the shell.
Diana Fiscal-Gonzalez told the Miami Herald that she planned to clean the conchs and give the shells away as gifts.
The 30-year-old pleaded no contest July 13 at the Monroe County Courthouse to taking the conchs. She apologized to Judge Mark Wilson, saying she didn’t know it was illegal to take the state-protected mollusks.
She had plucked the conchs from the sea with the help of several children.
Fiscal-Gonzalez received credit for one day of time served.
Wilson cut her a break by withholding adjudication, which means she won’t have a criminal conviction on her record, according to the Miami Herald.
Fiscal-Gonzalez will also serve six months of probation and pay a $500 fine plus $268 for court costs.
An officer from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission arrested Fiscal-Gonzalez on July 13, 2017, at 1216 Watson St. in Key West after an anonymous tipster called the agency about it.
FWC Officer John Martino said when he got to the house he saw a woman in plain view with three plastic containers and a water hose in the driveway. The conchs were in the containers.
After photographing the conchs, Martino returned them to the water. Most were still alive, FWC said.
The conch is a beloved symbol in Key West, with natives of the island calling themselves “conchs,” and the local high school has the mollusk as a mascot.
Fiscal-Gonzalez must report to court on Aug. 10 to begin her jail sentence.