KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Two Florida Keys marine dealers have pleaded guilty to illegally scheming to harvest and sell a wide variety of marine life, including several types of sharks and corals.
The pleas were entered Wednesday in Key West federal court by 51-year-old Eric Pedersen and 42-year-old Serdar Ercan. Each faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines when sentenced in December.
Authorities say the Grassy Key-based pair illegally harvested nurse, bonnethead and lemon sharks, corals, sea fans and other marine life between October 2010 and February 2011. The species were sold throughout the U.S. and to buyers in foreign countries.
Many species were taken from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and other national wildlife refuges, where special protection rules apply.