Owner and manager of D.R. Imports charged with smuggling live rock
The federal investigation alleges the owner of D.R. Imports, Bob Kelton, and general manager, Bruce Brande, conspired to take and ship 40 pieces of live rocks (allegedly rocks with coveted Ricordea florida) from Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) in the Florida Keys on six different dates in 2011.
The filing accuses the two men of "supply[ing] a false invoice to document a nonexistent sale of Haitian-origin life rock to a cooperating individual in order to 'cover' a subsequent delivery of live rock illegally harvested from the FKNMS." Some of the rocks were tagged by federal authorities with tracking devices. The filing also alleges Kelton took an unnamed Wisconsin-based marine life retailer on an excursion to the Florida Keys; shortly after, the retailer placed an order for rocks with D.R. Imports.
The charges are a result of a multi-year crackdown called Operation Rock Bottom targeting illegal poaching in the FKNMS. Hearing dates are yet to be determined.
This blot is the last thing the aquarium trade needs right now with aquariums (both public and private) under public pressure. Advanced Aquarist feels it is vitally important for hobbyists to be fully aware of the dark side of our hobby because it reminds us about the very real dangers of greed and the urgency for sustainable, responsible collection.
We've made strides over the years, but we have a long way to go. The only way to get where we want to be is through collective awareness. No reefkeeper wants to see something like this happen, yet it still happens. This tells us something is wrong with our supply chain processes. Hobbyist must demand increased transparency and hold our own responsible for any misdeeds.