ISLAMORADA, Fla., Jan. 18 (UPI) -- A father and son from Tennessee have been accused of chiseling coral from a popular and protected reef in the Florida Keys, state authorities said.
Ronald Fitzgerald, 63, and his son, Joseph Fitzgerald, 33, were charged with violating Florida laws against possessing coral after they were found in possession of coral pieces near the protected reef off Islamorada, The Miami Herald reported Wednesday.
Crews from U.S. Coast Guard and Florida wildlife commission boats found the Fitzgeralds on a small boat at the reef, the newspaper said.
"A cooler [on their boat was] filled with numerous hard and stony corals along with countless marine life," Officer Bobby Dube, a Fish and Wildlife spokesman, said. "Officers also found two chisels and a chisel hammer on their vessel which was used to extract the coral from the reef."
The Fitzgeralds confessed to collecting coral and marine life because "they wanted it for their aquarium back home," Dube said.
Damaging and possessing live corals in Florida Keys waters are violations of both state and federal law, authorities said, and the state charges against the Fitzgeralds are second-degree misdemeanors.