DFG and Orange County Successfully Prosecute First MPA Violation
May 8, 2012
Paul Hamdorf, DFG Law Enforcement, (562) 342-7210
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944
A Riverside County man was fined more than $20,000 and sentenced to a week in jail for poaching lobsters inside a marine protected area (MPA). This is the first resource crime conviction since the MPAs off the Southern California coast went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.
Marbel A. Para, 30, of Romoland pled guilty in Orange County Court on May 4 for violating Fish and Game Code 12013, which stipulates a minimum $5,000 fine for anyone who takes or possesses more than three times the daily bag limit of lobsters.
“This diver intentionally took a huge overlimit of lobster with no regard for the current laws,” said Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorf. “He didn’t follow any fish and game laws, including the take restrictions within an MPA.”
After midnight on Jan. 15, DFG wardens found Para and a companion with 47 California spiny lobsters in their possession. In addition to illegally taking the lobsters from an MPA, the divers were well over the legal possession limit of seven lobsters per diver, and all but five of the lobsters were undersize. Para claimed that all the lobsters were his and his companion was not cited.
“This was a big case, but unfortunately it wasn’t the biggest even in the last 12 months. Any time you have something that has significant monetary value, there will be a small group that will exploit it, regardless of what the law says,” said Hamdorf.
DFG has been working closely with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to combat resource crimes in the county. Para was ultimately sentenced to three years probation, seven days in Orange County jail and a $5,000 fine for the DFG violation. Additional fees and penalties pushed the total fines to more than $20,000. He also had to forfeit all his SCUBA equipment and was given a “stay away” order from the Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve.
The MPAs were created through the Marine Life Protection Act in order to simplify and strengthen existing marine reserves and fishing regulations to allow recovery of fish populations that have been in severe decline.