DFG and Orange County Successfully Prosecute First MPA Violation

Media Contacts:
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. 

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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.

State Offers Grants to Benefit Coastal Habitat

Media Contacts:
Alexia Retallack, OSPR Information Officer, (916) 592-3317
Bruce Joab, OSPR Grant Coordinator, (916) 322-7561

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is offering grants for projects to enhance California’s marine habitat. Coastal communities, non-profit groups and environmental agencies are encouraged to apply.

DFG’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR), the California Coastal Conservancy and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation together review and select recipients for Environmental Enhancement Fund (EEF) grants.

The funds come from oil spill violation penalties in accordance with California’s Lempert-Keene-Seastr and Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act, and up to $300,000 is available per year for qualifying projects. Multi-year projects are acceptable as long as there is no more than the annual spending authority requested per year. Eligible organizations include nonprofits, cities, counties, districts, and state and federal agencies.

To qualify, an environmental enhancement project must acquire habitat for preservation or improve habitat quality and ecosystem function. In addition, it must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Be located within or immediately adjacent to California marine waters.
  • Have measurable outcomes within a predetermined timeframe.
  • Be designed to acquire, restore or improve habitat or restore ecosystem function, or both, to benefit fish and wildlife.

 The Environmental Enhancement Committee, which consists of the OSPR Administrator, Executive Director of the California Coastal Conservancy and an officer from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, will determine the projects to be funded.

Disbursement of the grants is contingent on the availability of funds in the EEF.

Grant applications must be received by 5 p.m.on Aug. 28, 2012. To contact the grant coordinator, e-mail eefgrant@ospr.dfg.ca.gov. For more information, visit www.dfg.ca.gov/ospr/Science/eep.aspx.

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