Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens cited a man for allegedly taking lobsters from others’ traps and returned the lobsters, including undersized lobsters, to the sea.
Two wardens on a small boat patrol off Dana Point harbor Saturday night observed a small boat with no lights pulling commercial lobster traps out of the water. When the wardens approached the 12-foot boat with four men aboard and announced themselves as law enforcement, one man threw a line with a commercial lobster buoy back into the water.
After an investigation wardens cited 42-year old Yanwu Li from Rowland Heights (Los Angeles County) with four Fish and Game violations: disturbing a commercial lobster trap belonging to another person, fishing for lobster without a lobster report card in possession, possession of undersize lobster and fishing without a valid fishing license. The three other men are still suspects and may be charged at a later date.
“The California Department of Fish and Game will aggressively pursue and arrest any individuals stealing from commercial lobster traps,” said DFG Lt. Eric Kord. “Theft from these traps directly takes from the salaries of commercial fishermen, and puts the lobster fishery at further risk since many trap robbers take anything they find from the traps, including undersized lobsters.”
DFG has forwarded the citation to the Orange County District Attorney to file charges. Each count carries penalties of up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
“Commercial fishermen spend thousands of dollars on vessels, permits, trap gear, and bait to try and make a living off the lobster fishery each season,” said Rodger Healy, a commercial lobster fisherman and president of the California Lobster and Trap Fishermen’s Association. “Those stealing from lobster traps completely circumvent the lobster fishery management system and involve themselves in the illegal take of a valuable resource.”
California spiny lobsters are crustaceans that are common from Point Conception to Baja California. Lobster season generally opens the first Saturday in October through about March 15 and is carefully monitored and regulated. California spiny lobsters are slow-growing animals that biologists estimate take as long as seven years to grow to legal size. Fishermen must have a valid California fishing license with an ocean stamp, a lobster report card and a lobster gauge to measure for proper size.