On our Saturday morning dive, we spent quite a bit of time untangling fishing line, hooks and homemade sinkers from the coral outside of the Grotto. Some of the pieces of fishing line were well over 100 feet long and went from one piece of coral to the next. The illegal fishermen were using pieces of cut up rebar, old spark plugs set into a mold with melted lead poured around them, and chunks of busted up concrete. A little over a month ago, Fish & Wildlife officers arrested 2 Chinese fisherman at the Grotto for fishing in a sanctuary. We were all glad that something was finally being done about it, some of us were getting tired of spending the majority of our dives unraveling fishing line and picking up homemade sinkers.
But then the 2 Chinese fishermen went to court and had to face Judge Mona Manglona. Instead of teaching them a lesson and showing them that this kind of behavior won't be tolerated in our sanctuaries, it seemed as if she was almost apologizing to them in the sentence she handed down. She gave them 6 months in jail, all suspended except for the first 9 days with credit for the 9 days already served. She then placed the defendant on 6 months of unsupervised probation and hit him with a staggering $25 fine. According to the story in the newspaper, in accepting the plea agreement, Judge Manglona said the accused had pleaded guilty to a "rarely committed offense". Absolutely unbelievable!!! Can she possibly be anymore out of touch with reality?
But now the question comes in, who is really at fault, was it Judge Manglona, or was it the prosecutor from the AG's office prosecuting the case? Was Judge Manglona given enough information from the AG's office to make an educated decision. And why did the AG's office choose to settle this through a plea bargain as opposed to actually prosecuting it? Is it because they don't have the time or money? Do they not feel the crime was important enough to merit a trial? If we're not serious about protecting our sanctuaries and enforcing the laws that pertain to them, then why have them in the first place? If we don't have the time or money to follow through on things like this, then let's stop playing games, just get rid of the laws, the sanctuaries and the rules, after all they really don't seem to mean much anyway.
In the meantime, I'll continue collecting the fishing line and cut up chunks of rebar, concrete, nuts and bolts and just hope that a diving tourist doesn't get entangled in the fishing line before I get to it.