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Man faces jailtime in stone crab thefts

Police say man stole crabs out of commercial trap

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A South Daytona man faces a third-degree felony charge after Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials say he stole commercial crab traps.

Eliot Avelar, 34, was arrested and charged with theft of a commercial blue crab trap, which is a third degree felony, and possession of stone crabs in whole condition-a second-degree misdemeanor.

Police said Avelar was reported stealing stone crabs from blue crab traps in the Intracoastal Waterway between Orange Avenue and Dunlawton bridges in Daytona Beach.

The anonymous caller told FWC he spotted Avelar leaving the boat ramp on April 21 with whole stone crabs. It's legal to harvest stone crab claws but not the whole crab, to allow the crab to reproduce.

When police arrived at Avelar's home on Brook Circle, a second man who was cleaning the boat jumped over fences and ran from officials. He has not been found.

"Robbing crab traps is robbing someone of their livelihood. Commercial fishermen's income depends upon their catch. It's a serious violation,"said Lt. Steve VanNortwick, FWC law enforcement lieutenant in Volusia County.

Avelar faces penalties of up to five years in prison and/or up to a $5,000 fine.