CDFW Conducts Successful Abalone Checkpoint on the Sonoma County Coast

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers contacted more than 650 abalone divers at a wildlife checkpoint operation north of Jenner on Sunday, May 18. Checkpoints are an effective tool for wardens, who seek to promote safety, education and compliance with law and regulations through education, preventative patrol and enforcement.

All vehicles traveling south on Highway 1 in Sonoma County were screened at the checkpoint. Screening consisted of an introduction and brief questions. Approximately 260 vehicles were directed into the inspection area. Wildlife officers issued 31 citations and several dozen warnings. Violations included overlimits of abalone, undersize abalone, report card violations and alterations, abalone not tagged, abalone meat out of the shell, short fish and several other Fish and Game Code violations.

One diver attempted to throw a tagged but undersized abalone into nearby bushes, but instead threw it into a warden’s truck bed. The loud clanking alerted officers to the attempt.

Media Contact:
Capt. Steve Riske, CDFW Law Enforcement, (707) 838-6930
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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CDFW Coastal Wardens to Conduct Wildlife Checkpoint

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will be conducting a wildlife checkpoint operation to promote safety, education and compliance with law and regulations.

CDFW law enforcement division will be conducting the inspection on Highway 1, south of Fort Bragg, May 18, 2014, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The wildlife checkpoint is being conducted to protect and conserve fish and wildlife, and to encourage safety and sportsmanship by promoting voluntary compliance with laws, rules and regulations through education, preventative patrol and enforcement.

Abalone enforcement has been one of the top priorities for CDFW for the past several years and have strict size and take limits to protect the resource.

Media Contacts:              
Tiffany Stinson, CDFW Law Enforcement, (707) 824-1260
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

CDFW Officers Arrest 13 Poaching Suspects in Oakland and Sacramento

Abalone shellsMedia Contacts:
Sacramento Media: Warden Mark Michilizzi, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 996-9003
Bay Area Media: Lt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095

Based on an intensive investigation dubbed Operation Oakland Abalone Syndicate, California game wardens arrested 13 suspects in Oakland and Sacramento for harvesting sport caught abalone and possession for commercial sale. It is illegal to harvest wild abalone for commercial sale anywhere in California.

Suspects arrested were Chinh Quan Le, 60, Khoa Dang Nguyen, 40, Hung Ngoc Quoc Vo, 41 and Toi Van Nguyen, 48. All four men are from Oakland and all four had previous abalone poaching convictions. In addition, wardens arrested Hai Van Ha, 43, Duoc Van Nguyen, 48 and Nhan Trong Le, 46, all also of Oakland, and Andy Phan, 47, of Fairfield and Charlie Le, 55, of Alameda. In Sacramento officers arrested Dung Van Nguyen, 40, Hiep Ho, 46, Hung Van Le, 42 and Tho Than Phan, 59.

“Unless it is stopped, poaching will degrade California’s abalone population over time,” said CDFW’s Capt. David Bess. “It ultimately affects the honest, sport abalone harvesters who follow the laws.”
Based upon surveillance, game wardens allege the men conspired to profit from the sale of abalone with a black market network of buyers in the Bay Area and Sacramento.

Game wardens wish to express appreciation for the honest abalone divers’ patience with abalone report card requirements and abalone checkpoints. Both were an integral part of the investigation. The suspects face charges ranging from felony conspiracy to multiple poaching-related violations.

CDFW Officers Cite Two for Abalone Poaching in Marine Protected Area

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens cited two Southern California men for illegally taking Abalone from the Marine Protected Area (MPA) near Laguna Beach recently.

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CDFW wildlife officers observed Juni Pong, 47, from El Monte and Kuan Yee, 47, from Yorba Linda, entering the ocean at Moss Cove in Laguna Beach in full SCUBA gear. After more than an hour of diving the two men returned to the beach and were met by an officer who found two green abalone in each of the men’s diving gear.

Both suspects were cited for possession of abalone and take of fish inside a marine protected area, both potential misdemeanor violations, and then released. The abalone were photographed for evidence and returned to the sea, the men’s diving equipment was confiscated and impounded as evidence.

Abalone may only be taken north of San Francisco Bay during prescribed seasons. For complete ocean fishing regulations see http://www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/

The case will be forwarded to the Orange County District Attorney’s office for prosecution.

Media Contacts:
Lt. Eric Kord, CDFW Enforcement, (858) 538-6017
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

 

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Abalone Poachers Sentenced to Probation, Community Service, Fined and Lose Gear

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has noted an apparent increase in abalone poaching in Southern California waters. Potential abalone poachers and the general public should be aware wardens are on the lookout and penalties for illegally taking abalone can be stiff.

Two Southern California men recently pleaded no contest to misdemeanor Fish and Game Code violations in Los Angeles Superior Court. They were each ordered to:

  • Serve three years’ probation;
  • Pay a $2,405 fine;
  • Pay an additional $1,000 fine to the Department of Fish and Wildlife to be used to implement wildlife preservation policies;
  • Successfully complete a 3- to 5-unit marine biology course at a local college;
  • Serve 40 hours of community service, and
  • Forfeit diving and fishing gear.

Curatola abalone-knife

Wade Anthony Curtatola of Rancho Cucamonga was diving off Catalina Island on Sept. 29, 2012, the opening day of lobster season. With no other boats in the area a warden went into the water near where Curtatola surfaced behind a boat and found a spear gun and game bag filled with a horn shark, four abalone and 13 lobster tails in 30 feet of water. Samples of genetic materials taken from Curtatola’s equipment matched the species found in the dive bag. Curtatola pleaded to misdemeanor counts of taking abalone in a closed area, over-limit of lobster and possession of tailed lobster.

“All it takes is one drop of blood, or a few cells from an animal to make positive identifications of illegally taken species,” said Lt. Eric Kord, CDFW Law Enforcement. “CDFW and our partners are using the latest tools and technology to help protect California’s resources.”

Bruce Allen Boyd of Oceanside was fishing off Catalina Island the same day, Sept. 29, when wildlife officers boarded his boat for an inspection. Wildlife officers found a dive bag with a large abalone concealed in a trash can. The abalone was photographed and returned to the ocean. Boyd was charged with one violation and pleaded to a misdemeanor count of taking abalone in a closed area.

It has been illegal to take abalone since 1997 in the southern half of the state (San Francisco Bay south to Mexican border) due to over fishing, disease and sea otter predation.

“We have seen a pretty sharp rise in abalone poaching here in Southern California over the last 18 months or so,” said Kord. “Most anglers are responsible fishermen and know the laws; the enforcement is to protect resources from the rest.”

Illegally taking abalone has some of the highest penalties in the Fish and Game Code, and can include of up to a year in jail, fines in the thousands of dollars, permanent loss of fishing licenses and confiscation of fishing and diving gear.

 

Media Contacts:
Lt. Eric Kord, CDFW Law Enforcement, (858) 538-6017
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Abalone Poacher Sentenced in Mendocino County

Media Contact: Warden Mark Michilizzi, CDFW Enforcement, (916) 651-2084

A Rohnert Park man was sentenced to two years’ probation and fined $5,000 for the unlawful commercial take of 20 abalone.

A Mendocino County Superior Court judge also imposed a lifetime fishing ban on Jason McMillen, 30.

On June 23, 2012, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers investigated reports of a large unattended bag filled with abalone. The bag, which held 17 red abalone, was located in shallow waters along the Mendocino coastline south of Hare Creek.

Wildlife officers waited for McMillen, who returned to the area and retrieved the bag of abalone the following day. The investigation revealed McMillen had unlawfully taken 20 abalone with the intent of selling them.

California regulations prohibit an individual from taking more than three abalone per day or possessing more than three abalone at any one time.  Pursuant to the Fish and Game Code, the possession of more than 12 abalone is prima facie evidence that a person possesses the abalone for commercial purposes.

Reports from concerned members of the public along with prosecution efforts from the Mendocino County District Attorneys Office and penalties placed by the Mendocino County Superior Court have been fundamental in protecting this precious resource.

Anglers and Divers Can Now Report Harvest Results Online

Anglers and divers can now go online to more easily submit their abalone, lobster, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon report cards required by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). These report cards provide important harvest data critical to helping fishery scientists better manage these fishing programs.

Reporting requirements for anglers and divers have not changed, but this online submission option makes the reporting faster and easier. By providing harvest details more quickly, fisheries managers can more promptly put the information to use.

Standard mail reporting is still available and can be done through the address printed on the report card.

To report online, just go to CDFW’s Online License Service (www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/ols/) page and search for your profile by entering your last name, date of birth and ID Number, which can be a driver’s license number, a GO ID or other form of identification. When the system finds an exact match, it automatically logs the user on to their profile, where he or she can purchase a license or complete a harvest report card.

Confirmation numbers will be provided to those who report online, so there will be no need to mail in the report card. Write the number on the report card and retain it for 90 days for survey purposes. Once a report card has been reported, it is no longer valid.

Please note: The law requires sport fishing report cards be submitted by January 31 even if divers and angers were unsuccessful or did not fish at all. Please refer to your report card for specific reporting requirements. For additional information on harvest reporting requirements, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/harvestreporting/.

Details on specific species and reporting availability online are listed below.

Requirements for online reporting
Complete data is required and must be completed within 20 minutes to avoid a system time out.

Sport fishing report cards may be reported online only after the last day of the report card’s validity. All entries on the report card must be entered onto the electronic form, including activity where no catches were made.

Reporting Availability – You may submit your information online for items below beginning on the specified date. Only the data from 2012 report cards and beyond may be submitted online.

Dec. 1, 2012
Abalone Report Card

Jan. 1, 2013
North Coast Salmon Report Card
Spiny Lobster Report Card
Steelhead Report Card
Sturgeon Fishing Report Card

Fishing harvest and effort data is essential to help scientists better manage these fisheries, which is why anglers are required by regulation to submit sport fishing report cards in a timely manner.

Contacts:
Glenn Underwood, License Program Analyst, (916) 928-6882
Carrie Wilson, Environmental Scientist, (831) 649-7191

Hefty Fines and Penalties for Mendocino County Abalone Poachers

A convicted abalone poacher who was sentenced recently to probation and a fine also lost his ability to get a California fishing license for the rest of his life.

Paul Chak Po Mak, 62, of Oakland, was arrested and cited by Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens after taking more than the bag limit of red abalone from the Mendocino County coastline. The Mendocino County Superior Court sentenced Mak to three years probation and fined him $15,000.

His early October sentencing was the latest is a series of heavy fines and penalties levied on abalone poachers in Mendocino County that included permanent fishing license revocations.

“The Department of Fish and Game and the courts recognize the serious damage that just a few individuals can do to our precious resources. Working together to investigate and prosecute serious offenders is key to success in protecting our coastline,” said DFG Captain Bob Farrell, who supervises some the investigating wardens. “In this case, significant fines and lifetime revocation of their fishing licenses should put these guys out of business permanently.”

Between April 23 and May 21, 2012, California game wardens observed Paul Chak Po Mak take 52 red abalone, and Samuel Xing Sin, 41, also from Oakland, take 32 red abalone from the Mendocino County coastline. The seasonal bag limit for red abalone is 24.

The men harvested the abalone for the purpose of unlawful sale on the black market. Both men have previous abalone poaching-related convictions in Mendocino County.

Samuel Sin was recently sentenced in a separate abalone poaching case stemming from a November 2011 arrest. In that case, a warden contacted Sin at Agate Cove in Mendocino County where he and Xiao Chen, 31, Oakland; See Ping Bob Ng, 57, Willits; Yaowei Chen, 53, San Francisco; took 24 abalone to sell on the black market. It is unlawful to sell abalone harvested under the authority of a recreational fishing license, or to harvest abalone for commercial purposes from the wild in California.

The Mendocino County Superior Court found the following:

Samuel Sin – Guilty of conspiracy and possession of abalone for commercial sales. He was fined $35,000 put on formal probation for five years, and the court revoked his fishing license for the rest of his life.

Paul Chak Po Mak – Guilty of possession of abalone for commercial sales. He was fined $15,000, put on formal probation for three years, and the court revoked his fishing license for the rest of his life. Mak also pled no contest to his probation violation in Sonoma County for a previous abalone poaching conviction.

Xiao Chen – Guilty of possession of abalone for commercial sales. He was fined $15,000 and put on formal probation for three years, and the court revoked his fishing license for the rest of his life.

Yaowei Chen – Guilty of possession of abalone for commercial sales. He was fined $15,000 put on formal probation for three years, and the court revoked his fishing license for the rest of his life.

See Ping Bob Ng – Guilty of conspiracy and possession of abalone for commercial sales. He was fined $25,000 put on formal probation for five years, and the court revoked his fishing license for the rest of his life.

Contact:         
Lt. Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095

Marina Man Convicted of Poaching Endangered Black Abalone

 Media Contact:
Warden Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 651-2084

A Monterey County jury recently convicted a Marina man of poaching 22 black abalone, a federally endangered species.

22 endangered black abalone were found in a backpack shared between Hoang Tan Dinh, 53, of Marina and Hai Trung Luong, 41, of Salinas.

Hoang Tan Dinh, 53, was sentenced Sept. 12 to three years probation, a 90-day jail term suspended, and fined $15,000 for possession of black abalone for sale. His commercial fishing license was permanently revoked, and he is prohibited from recreational fishing for the duration of his three year probation. A second suspect, Hai Trung Luong, 41, of Salinas failed to appear in court. A $10,000 warrant has been issued for his arrest.

In April, Warden Brian Meyer was on routine patrol in the area of  Big Sur when he noticed two men returning from the tidal area during a very low tide with wet clothes, wet hands and scratches. With assistance from a California Highway Patrol officer, Warden Meyer conducted a vehicle stop as the suspects were driving away. He found a backpack with 22 abalone in it, along with a 2-foot long screwdriver. He cited and released both men, photographed the evidence, then returned the abalone to the inter-tidal area in hopes that they would survive.

Monterey County Deputy District Attorney Kellin Dunne was instrumental during the prosecution phase of the case.

Abalone fishing is prohibited from San Francisco Bay south. Black abalone has gone locally extinct in most locations south of Point Conception. Black abalone is one of seven sub-species of abalone in California and was listed as endangered in 2009. Historical overfishing, withering syndrome disease and poaching are the primary causes of population decline.

Wardens Arrest Two Repeat Abalone Poachers

Media Contacts:
Warden Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 651-2084
Captain Bob Farrell, DFG Law Enforcement, (707) 477-6657

California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens have arrested two repeat abalone poachers for poaching and possession of abalone for sale on the black market.

Paul Chak Po Mak, 61, and Samuel Xing Sin, 41, both of Oakland, have been charged with poaching a total of 84 abalone for commercial purposes between April 23 and May 21. The two were arrested by DFG’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) after they were observed taking large overlimits of abalone during an intensive investigation dubbed “Operation Scoop and Run.”

Wardens served search and arrest warrants on the suspect’s homes on May 24 and seized evidence including abalone report cards and dive gear. Mak was charged with the illegal take of 52 abalone and Sin was charged with the illegal take of 32 abalone.

Wardens allege the two men also “high graded” abalone, meaning they knowingly harvested far more than their daily limit of three, with the intention of taking only the largest. One seized abalone measured 10 ¾ inches across, which is an extremely large abalone.

Both suspects were transported and booked into Mendocino County Jail. Additional pending charges include possession of abalone and intention to sell on the black market.

In addition to previous abalone poaching convictions, Sin has a currently pending case related to abalone poaching and sales in Mendocino County. Mak is currently on probation in Sonoma County for abalone-related convictions.

Abalone typically sell for up to $100 each on the black market, and some of the bigger abalone will fetch much more.

“Profit remains the primary motive for abalone poachers,” said DFG Capt. Bob Farrell, who oversees the SOU. “Profits from black market abalone sales easily cover the hard expenses poachers expend for travel and equipment. It is clear – and disappointing – that penalties from prior convictions failed to deter either of these men.”

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