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FWC catches poachers, shuts down illegal oyster operation

Media contact: Bekah Nelson, 850-767-3619 or Rebekah.Nelson@MyFWC.com Release Date: 08-07-2019   All Articles Tags:

Santa Rosa County – Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigators charged four individuals after an investigation involving the theft of thousands of oysters from Pensacola Bay Oyster Company. The suspects are charged with multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including grand theft, dealing in stolen property, not delivering to a certified oyster house, and harvesting oysters in a closed season.

“These suspects were involved in an illegal oyster operation. These violations are serious and posed public safety and economic consequences,” said Major Craig Duval, commander of the FWC’s Northwest Region. “I am incredibly proud of our law enforcement officers for their work in this investigation and for their dedication to conserving our precious natural resources.”

FWC investigators were involved in an existing saltwater products investigation when they received information about the theft of Pensacola Bay Oyster Company’s lease. Throughout the investigation, FWC investigators worked closely with uniformed patrol to gather information and develop a list of suspects.

A search warrant was conducted at the home of one of the supsects and the FWC seized more than 4,000 oysters. Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory analyzed a sample of the seized oysters and determined that all sampled oysters were farm raised and not wild caught oysters.

As a result of this effort, legitimate commercial operators are protected and this valuable resource is properly conserved.

The suspects and their charges are as follows:

Nicholas Mason (DOB 03/26/1984) of Milton and Douglas Lowery (DOB 07/08/1989) of Milton

  • Principle – Grand Theft – Second Degree Felony
  • Principle – Dealing in Stolen Property – Second Degree Felony
  • Criminal Mischief – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • Not Delivering to a Certified Oyster House – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • Closed Season – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • No Tags on Oysters – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • No Saltwater Products License – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • No Shellfish Endorsement – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • No Retail License – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • Undersized Oysters – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • Harvest of Oysters at night – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • Failure to Register Vessel Commercial – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • Closed Season Stone Crabs – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • Whole Stone Crabs – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • Trespass on Lease – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • Quality Control on Vessel – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • Possession > 100 Stone Crabs – First Degree Misdemeanor
    *Nicholas Mason’s charge only*

Lesia Mason (DOB 10/13/1960) of Milton

  • Principle – Grand Theft – Second Degree Felony
  • Principle – Dealing in Stolen Property – Second Degree Felony
  • Closed Season – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • No Tags on Oysters – Second Degree Misdemeanor
  • Undersized Oysters – Second Degree Misdemeanor

Lonny Teston (DOB 10/19/1972) of Pace

  • Accessory Dealing in Stolen Property – Third Degree Felony