FWC, partners bust illegal Internet sales of protected wildlife

October 3, 2013

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently concluded a joint operation with federal and state agencies on statewide wildlife law violations.

“Operation Wild Web” targeted those intentionally buying and selling fish and wildlife illegally online. The five-day detail last month detected violations across the state.

Cases involved the unlawful sale of certain species, like fresh and saltwater fish, lobster, snakes, birds and other animals; businesses operating without licenses; and illegal fishing and hunting violations.

Legitimate businesses that follow wildlife laws are safe for the public and the environment. However, the FWC has uncovered many individuals and businesses operating illegally throughout the state.

“These illegal virtual businesses not only compete with the legitimate companies, they are also damaging to our valuable fish and wildlife populations,” said Lt. George Wilson, leader of the FWC’s Internet Crimes Unit. “We often find they are selling unsafe products or sick or injured animals.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission also participated.

“The teamwork among agencies for Operation Wild Web really made this a success,” Wilson said.

“Some people may think operating online is a way to get away with taking advantage of protected species,” Wilson said. “But we are dedicated to working with our partners to stop these illegal activities.”

Written arrests (notices to appear) and warnings were issued in the following counties: Hernando, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Lee, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, Collier and Monroe.

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