Wildlife officials crack down on illegal sales - FOX 13 News

Wildlife officials crack down on illegal sales

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Ward's Seafood in Clearwater prides itself on its variety. It's a fish-lover's paradise.

"I fly in fish from all over the world," said owner Robert Cameron.

But getting them on the shelves requires much more than a hook and a line. It takes getting through a lot of red tape.

"We have to have licenses to have licenses," he said. "We do it legitimately. We have procedures we go through here with FWC. Everything done by computers," he added.

But businesses like his are taking a hit because hacks on the internet are illegally selling fish and wildlife online.

Not surprisingly, Cameron is happy to see FWC cracking down with a joint, interagency investigation dubbed "Operation Wild Web."

"We're trying to protect Florida's resources. Anytime you sell or harvest a resource from the state, you're taking that way from someone else," said FWC officer Baryl Martin.

Cases included the unlicensed sale of exotic animals, as well as fresh and saltwater fish, and lobster too.

Operation Wild Web nabbed 33 people in the state, including eight from Hernando, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties.

"It could result in people getting sick. No one wants to eat any time of food or product that's not regulated where you don't know where it came from," Martin said.

These are 2nd degree misdemeanors, which could land violators up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Legitimate business owners hope it serves as a tough lesson: do it right, or don't do it at all.

"What right do other people have to go out there and just go online and do without having everything I have to get paid for? It is not right," Cameron said.

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