Tag Archives: poaching

Poachers Fined for Illegally Taking Abalone in Southern California

Two Southern California men have been convicted and fined for abalone poaching and other resource crimes, stemming from a September 2015 California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) enforcement case.

CDFW wildlife officers assigned to the patrol boat Thresher discovered the two men poaching abalone at Catalina Island. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office subsequently prosecuted both individuals.

Hee Won Chai, 75, of Los Angeles was charged with taking and possessing six pink abalone. Chai pleaded no contest to all six poaching counts. He was ordered by the court to pay $61,626 in fines and penalties, and $1,000 to the CDFW Preservation Fund. Additionally all of his SCUBA equipment was forfeited by the court and his fishing privileges permanently revoked.

Thresher1.jpg
Warden Rob Rojas and Warden Jon Holemo work together to recover a game bag the suspected poachers attempted to discard.

Jin Chai Jeong, 58, of Garden Grove was charged with taking and possessing two pink abalone, three green abalone and four spiny lobsters out of season, as well as attempting to destroy evidence. Jeong pleaded no contest to all of the abalone and lobster charges. He was also ordered by the court to pay $61,626 in fines and penalties and $1,000 to the CDFW Preservation Fund, and his SCUBA gear was forfeited by the court and his fishing privileges permanently revoked.

“An extraordinary amount of time and effort is invested in helping the Southern California abalone populations rebound, including the sacrifice of honest abalone harvesters who cannot currently fish for abalone south of San Francisco,” said CDFW Law Enforcement Asst. Chief Mike Stefanak. “Years ago, abalone poaching laws were significantly strengthened as part of the overall recovery plan to protect California’s abalone populations, but even so, we’ve seen an increase in poaching crimes. Once we find the offenders, we rely on the diligence of the District Attorneys’ offices and the courts to ensure that justice is served. Successful prosecutions such as these will hopefully serve as a deterrent for anyone considering committing these crimes against the environment.”

All of California’s abalone species are struggling, including two that are federally listed as endangered. Disease, predation, slow reproduction and poaching have necessitated a moratorium on abalone harvest south of San Francisco Bay since 1997. Red abalone populations north of San Francisco are the only populations stable enough to support very limited recreational harvest.

Anyone who believes they are witness to unlawful hunting, fishing or pollution is encouraged to call CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program, at (888) 334-2258 or send a text to tip411. Both methods allow the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information to assist with investigations. Callers may remain anonymous, if desired, and a reward can result from successful capture and prosecution.

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Media Contacts:
Capt. Rebecca Hartman, CDFW Law Enforcement, (310) 678-4864
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958

CDFW Busts Suspected Sturgeon Poachers; Sacramento County District Attorney Files Charges

Six Sacramento residents have been charged with multiple Fish and Game Code violations after California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers concluded a multi-week investigation of a sturgeon poaching operation.

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office will pursue a case against Sacramento residents Mikhail Tverdokhlebov, 54; Aleksandr Postnov, 48; Sang Saephan, 29; Narong Srikham, 35; Mike Keopraseut, 46; and Roongroji Sritula, 48. The six men face charges including conspiracy to unlawfully take sturgeon; take and possession of sturgeon for commercial purposes; unlawful possession of sturgeon; possession of untagged and oversize sturgeon (the maximum size is 60”); and failure to properly return/report sturgeon fishing cards.

Extensive evidence of illegal activities was uncovered by wildlife officers as they served search warrants at multiple locations where the suspected members of the group ran their poaching operation.

At one location officers found an oversized, untagged sturgeon that was barely alive and lay flopping on the floor of the garage. The fish could not be saved. Officers also found more than 20 jars of caviar (processed sturgeon roe or fish eggs), some labeled with prices; weights and sturgeon meat labeled with prices; and fish processing equipment including scales and canning equipment. Officers seized fishing rods and tackle along with various CDFW licenses and tags, and other tools and evidence of illegal poaching activities.

If convicted, the six suspects could face several thousand dollars in fines and penalties, incarceration, forfeiture of assets and equipment and revocation of fishing privileges.

Two types of sturgeon, white and green, are native to the anadromous waterways of California. White sturgeon, which was taken in this case, is highly sought after for its meat and roe. This creates a commercial black market that leads to rampant poaching of the species. CDFW spends significant resources on equipment and personnel hours to combat sturgeon poaching and protect this iconic species of California’s Central Valley.

“Illegal trafficking of wildlife is a multi-million dollar black market industry often linked to criminal organizations,” said David Bess, Chief of CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division. “Wildlife trafficking threatens the stability of species, the economy and public safety, not only in California, but also globally.”

Anyone with information about unlawful fishing, hunting, or pollution is encouraged to contact CDFW CalTIP, a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. The CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, is printed on the back of every hunting and fishing license. Tips can also be relayed by text to tip411, which allows the public to text message an anonymous tip to wildlife officers and lets the officers respond back creating an anonymous two-way conversation. Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to CDFW by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411). There is also an app for smartphones that works similarly. For more information on the program and how to download the new CalTIP app, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.

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Media Contact:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (530) 523-6720

CDFW Seeking Tips After Finding Desert Bighorn Skull

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers are looking for any information the public may have regarding an abandoned skull of a mature male desert bighorn sheep found last May in Alameda County.

The skull was found near Newpark Mall in Newark, in an area with very limited pedestrian traffic. It was in good condition with some flesh and hair still attached to the skull, and it appeared as though someone attempted to conceal it. Desert bighorn sheep are native to California, but are found primarily in the southeastern mountainous areas. They do not naturally occur anywhere near the area where the skull was found.

Lawful hunting of bighorn sheep occurs annually in California, but is heavily regulated with very limited opportunities. In 2015, only 11 bighorn sheep hunting tags were issued by CDFW. Wildlife officers are confident the skull was not legally harvested.

Anyone with information about the skull is encouraged to call CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program, at (888) 334-2258 or send a text to tip411. Both options allow the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information to assist in this investigation.

For more information on the CalTIP program or to download the CalTIP app, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.

Media Contact:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (530) 523-6720
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

The Future of Wildlife Is In Our Hands

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recognizes World Wildlife Day, declared by the United Nations (UN). On March 3, 2013 the UN General Assembly signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

“Poaching persists today across the globe and right here in California,” Chief of CDFW Law Enforcement Division David Bess said. “Wildlife officers dedicate their lives to stopping poachers – in particular, those who illegally sell wildlife and their parts for personal profit.”

Illegal commercialization of wildlife is a multi-million dollar industry right here in California, and is valued at hundreds of millions worldwide. The illegal black market trafficking of wildlife could be eliminated if people simply refused to purchase wildlife or wildlife parts.

California’s wildlife officers routinely work with our federal counterparts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent people from smuggling wildlife parts into California. Even with combined forces, we can only stop a fraction of the illegal poaching contraband that enters the state.

Many species of wildlife around the world face extinction because of people who capture them for the illegal pet trade or kill them for their body parts. According to a report released by the Secretariat of CITES, more than 20,000 African elephants were poached across the continent in 2013. The ivory trade has been illegal for years, yet poachers continue to make money selling it to people who carve it into art and trinkets, then sell it to collectors and others around the world.

“We celebrate World Wildlife Day to raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants, and their importance in every ecosystem,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “Our department’s employees are passionate about the work we do as the state wildlife trustee agency and are committed to our mission to manage California’s native wildlife.”

CDFW joins the United Nations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many other individuals and organizations asking the public to help protect the world’s wildlife by reporting crimes, including illegal trade in wildlife and their body parts. Phone Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters (CalTIP) at 888-334-2258 or send a text to “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message: to 847411 (tip411).

Alternatively, you can download the free CALTIP smartphone App, which operates similarly to tip411 by creating an anonymous two-way conversation to report wildlife and pollution violations to wildlife officers. The CALTIP App can be downloaded, free, via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

More information can be found on the CDFW website:
Elephant Ivory, sale of in California (PDF)
Elephant Ivory, state and federal laws regarding (PDF)
Restricted Species – Penal Code Section 653(o) (PDF)

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Media Contacts:
Chris Stoots, Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-9982
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Poachers Take Advantage of Drought Conditions to Target Juvenile Salmon

California wildlife officers patrolling the Sacramento River recently cited six suspects for unlawfully taking and possessing juvenile salmon, and using the young fish as bait to target sturgeon. All of the suspects initially denied use of salmon as bait, but wildlife officers were able to reel in their lines and show them the dead salmon on their hooks.

The alleged poachers worked during the early morning hours under the cover of darkness and focused their effort on sandbars on the Sacramento River in Yolo and Sacramento counties. The sandbars were recently exposed due to drought conditions. Wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Delta Bay Enhanced Enforcement Project (DBEEP), Special Operations Unit (SOU) and local squads continue to use the Governor’s drought overtime support to step up patrols in these sensitive areas to protect salmon and sturgeon from poachers.

In the first case, a wildlife officer observed two subjects wading in the Sacramento River and using a large net to capture juvenile salmon near a sandbar created by the low flow conditions. They netted the small salmon for later use as bait to fish for sturgeon. The wildlife officer ultimately determined that the two anglers and one more fisherman used fishing rods baited with the juvenile salmon they’d caught. Tony Saetern, 25, Michael Anglero, 24, and Kao Saeyang, 28, all of Sacramento, were each cited for unlawful use of salmon as bait and unlawful possession of salmon out of season.

A few nights later, wildlife officers observed a suspect using a hand light and dip net to unlawfully capture and keep multiple juvenile salmon in the same area of the Sacramento River. The officers watched as a total of three suspects in the group appeared to use the salmon as bait for fishing. Officers contacted the suspects and found two of them in possession of fishing rods with hooks baited with the salmon. As the officers were conducting the investigation, a sturgeon was hooked on another fishing rod belonging to the group, was landed and released. Officers found the group in possession of a Snapple beverage bottle containing 14 additional juvenile salmon for later use as bait.

Nai Poo Saechao, 36, of Antelope and Lai C Saechao, 27, of Sacramento, were both cited for unlawful use of salmon as bait, possession of salmon out of season and an overlimit of salmon. Vincent Sai Poo Saechao, 23, of Antelope, was cited for unlawful method of take of salmon.

“During this time of year, juvenile salmon are migrating downstream to the Delta and are vulnerable to this type of poaching as they seek shelter from prey fish close to shore,” DBEEP Warden Byron Trunnell explained. “Salmon season is closed on the Sacramento River, and nets are not an authorized method of take for game fish in inland waters.”

The unlawful practice of catching juvenile salmon for bait has long been a concern and is an enforcement priority this time of year. Poaching pressure on salmon is particularly harmful now, given California’s current drought situation. CDFW and numerous other agencies on both the state and federal levels are taking action wherever possible to support the long-term viability of salmon populations of the Sacramento River watershed.

CDFW appreciates legitimate anglers and asks for the public’s help in apprehending those who are taking advantage of our natural resources. Illegal activity can be reported through the CDFW Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters (CalTIP) line at 888-334-2258, or via email or text (please see www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.aspx for details).

Media Contact:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095CDFW Wildlife Officer (2)