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Exotic fish removed from waters near Blue Heron Bridge

Posted at 8:35 PM, Oct 09, 2018

Take a peek behind Jim Abernethy's lens and you'll see dozens of rare tropical fish.

"There's stargazers, there's all types, angelfish, gorgeous beautiful fish," he said.

For more than five decades the environmentalist and diver have traveled the world, capturing images of marine life. The Blue Herron Bridge is one of his favorite spots. But Friday Abernethy got a call that a group was loading up dozens of fish. 

"To me it saddens me greatly that we would allow anybody to steal anything legally from a world-class dive place," he said.

A spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said collectors have been issued a permit even though a county ordinance prohibits the collection of tropical fish from the area. 

The original permit issued to Moody Gardens an amusement park in Galveston, Texas gave them authorization to permanently retain more than 4,000 fish.

"We think the resources are of such importance that they deserve state attention and state protection," Deborah Drum said.

Drum, the Department Director of Environmental Resources in Palm Beach County, says for months the county has been working with FWC to exclude Blue Heron Bridge as a collection site.

"Collectors are well aware of this area and there is the serious potential for over-harvesting," Drum told WPTV.

After complaints from citizens and the county, FWC amended Moody Gardens' collection permit to exclude removal of marine species in the vicinity of the Blue Heron Bridge. 

A win for local conservationists like Abernethy.

"Ultimately I hope this area is protected from anything happening like this ever again," Abernethy said.

He started a petition to stop collectors from harvesting fish from the popular dive spot. 

Drum says the county is continuing to work with FWC to permanently protect that area.

WPTV reached out to Moody Gardens for comment, but have not heard back.