Two Santa Barbara County Men Arrested for Felony Fish Theft

Two commercial fishermen were arrested by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers early Sunday morning in Santa Barbara Harbor on felony charges of conspiracy and grand theft.

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John Wilson, 53, of Santa Ynez and Kai Griffin, 23, of Buellton, both licensed commercial fishermen, are being charged with stealing live rock crabs from fellow commercial fishermen and stealing from commercial fish markets at the commercial dock in Santa Barbara Harbor. Wildlife officers allege that the pair then sold the crabs, along with several other illegally landed species, at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market.

“Thanks to some good tips from the fishing community and good, solid police work, we were able to catch the suspects and stop these illegal sales,” said CDFW Lt. Wes Boyle

Wardens had received reports from commercial fishermen and two Santa Barbara fish markets regarding stolen rock crabs and other assorted species. The thefts were said to be occurring in the early morning hours. During the two-month-long investigation, the subjects were observed stealing live rock crabs from receivers in Santa Barbara Harbor and then selling them at the Farmer’s Market. The investigation also showed that the subjects were selling sea urchins, Kellet’s whelks (out of season), live rock crabs and clawed rock crabs that were illegally landed.

The suspects were booked into Santa Barbara County Jail, and charges will be filed with the county District Attorney.

Media Contacts:     
Capt. Mike Stefanak, CDFW Law Enforcement, (805) 746-7590
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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CDFW to Host Public Meeting on Ocean Salmon Fisheries

The Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites the public to attend its upcoming annual ocean salmon information meeting. A review of last year’s ocean salmon fisheries and spawning escapement will be presented, in addition to the outlook for this year’s sport and commercial ocean salmon fisheries.

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd. in Santa Rosa.

The public is encouraged to provide input on potential fishing seasons to a panel of California salmon scientists, managers and representatives who will be directly involved in the upcoming Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meetings in March and April.

Salmon fishing seasons are developed through a collaborative process involving the PFMC, the California Fish and Game Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Public input will help California representatives negotiate a broad range of season alternatives during the PFMC March 8-13 meeting in Sacramento, California.

The 2014 ocean salmon information meeting marks the beginning of a two-month long public process used to establish annual sport and commercial ocean salmon seasons. A list of additional meetings and other opportunities for public comment is available on the ocean salmon webpage at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/salmonpreseason.asp.

The meeting agenda and handouts will be posted online as soon as they become available.

Media Contacts:
Erick Anderson, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2879
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Chinook salmon taken by an ocean sport angler near Trinidad, CA. Photo by Mark Scatchard (CDFW).

Chinook salmon taken by an ocean sport angler near Trinidad, CA. Photo by Mark Scatchard (CDFW).

CDFW Officers Snag Diver off Catalina Island

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers cited a 46-year-old Ventura County man for using rubbing alcohol to force fish out of rocks and capturing them to sell. The diver was cited for two Fish and Game Code violations: use of chemical while collecting marine aquaria and unlawful take of marine aquaria at Catalina Island, which is prohibited by law.

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On the afternoon of Nov. 13, officers from the patrol boat Thresher observed a large recreational sailboat with commercial fishing license numbers painted on the stern anchored in Emerald Bay on the northeast coast of Catalina Island. Officers boarded the boat and found a man sport fishing. The angler told the officers that his partner was SCUBA diving.

Officers entered the 62-degree water and observed a diver squirting a liquid (later determined to be rubbing alcohol) from a bottle into cracks of rocks. The liquid was forcing small fish, Blue Banded Goby (Lythrypnus dalli), into the open water where the man then caught them with a small aquarium fish net and immediately put them in a small plastic receptacle attached to his SCUBA gear. The warden used a mask and snorkel from just below the water’s surface to watch the diver squirt the bottle twice. The warden then dove down, showed the diver his warden identification, and directed the diver to come to the surface. Before ascending, the diver left one of his squirt bottles on the rocks and attempted to drop a small, mesh bag containing another squirt bottle. A warden retrieved both squirt bottles and the mesh bag.

Once on the sailboat, the suspect told the officers he was a licensed marine aquaria collector and his buyers were paying him $10 per fish.  He stated that he did not know it is illegal to use rubbing alcohol to catch the small fish, or that it is illegal to partake in marine aquaria collection operations off Santa Catalina Island.

The diver had 63 goby fish in the plastic receptacle attached to his gear. During the interview, officers saw another plastic sealed container underneath the boat. The second container was holding an additional 109 goby fish.  The fish were counted, photographed and returned to the sea.

The man’s dive gear was seized and charges will be filed with the Los Angeles County District Attorney.

The marine aquaria laws that protect Catalina Island prevent collectors from depleting local species around the island. Collecting marine aquaria from the ocean is legal with the proper permits.

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

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