DFG Marine Wardens Snare Poacher Inside New Marine Protected Area

Media Contacts:
Paul Hamdorff, DFG Law Enforcement, (562) 400-1250
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 201-2958 

Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens cited a Southern California man early Sunday morning for poaching dozens of lobsters inside a Marine Protected Area (MPA).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wardens observed Marbel A. Para, 30, of Romoland (Riverside County) and a companion SCUBA diving in the Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve after midnight on Jan. 15. This location, which is in the Heisler Park area off the coast of Laguna Beach, has historically been closed to lobster fishing for years (even prior to the establishment of the MPA).

After the divers left the water and returned to their vehicle, the wardens made contact with them and discovered 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 is the first major violation that DFG wardens have cited in any of the Southern California MPAs since they went into effect in Southern California on Jan. 1, 2012. 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.

“The vast majority of our fishing and diving constituents are responsible and law-abiding,” said DFG Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorff. “It is always our goal to catch those who choose to intentionally abuse the resources of this state for their own benefit.”

Wardens cited Para for several poaching violations including unlawful take and illegal possession of lobster, and possession of overlimits and undersized animals. A report will be filed with the Orange County District Attorney and Para may face additional charges related to this case.

All the lobsters were confiscated, photographed as evidence and then safely returned to the ocean.