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Capture Of Illegal Lobsters Could Mean Seafood Feast For Miami Poor

August 8, 1985

MIAMI (AP) _ Transients may be in for a seafood feast if no one claims 22,000 pounds of illegally shipped lobster tails that are on ice until a judge rules, and officials say anyone claiming the booty could be fined.

Nobody has claimed the $200,000 worth of lobster since it was seized July 25 by the Florida Marine Patrol after it was flown in from Belize City, Belize, in 500 cases headed for a Chicago seafood dealer.

Authorities had learned the tails were undersized and not carrying closed- season permits and a wholesale license, said FMP Capt. Ken Clark. ″We haven’t been able to charge anyone with violations because no one wants to come forward and say they own it. We seem to be having a problem with possession.″

Anyone who claims the shipment may be fined up to $600,000 for lobster law violations, Clark said.

Chicago seafood dealer Ben Kozloff paid $168,550 for the shellfish, according to papers filed in Dade Circuit Court as part of a forfeiture lawsuit seeking to have the lobsters turned over to the state.

While Kozloff hasn’t claimed the lobsters, his lawyer, Thomas Keating, said the shipment was not illegal because U.S. Customs officers nabbed them before they officially ″entered commerce of the state of Florida.″

″As a result, no violation ... could have occured,″ Keating said in a letter to Clark.

If the tails are seized by the state, some of Miami’s poor may be in for a feast, Clark said. ″Usually, we donate the undersized ones to the Camillus House or the Salvation Army.″

It would be ″sinful,″ he added, to throw out the succulent catch.