Tag Archives: poaching

Opening Weekend of Lobster Season Keeps Southern California Wildlife Officers Busy

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Wildlife officers from across Southern California participated in an enhanced patrol for opening weekend of the 2018 lobster season, which began on Sept. 29. The goal was to facilitate a safe and enjoyable start to lobster season and enforce the laws so future generations can also enjoy the sport.

Wildlife officers from inland regions of Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties converged on the coast to pool resources and enhance coverage. Both shore-based patrols and boat patrols were utilized. In total, officers made 2,088 contacts with lobster fishers, gave 165 warnings and issued 106 citations. Citations included overlimit of lobster and other fish, take of undersized lobster and other fish, unlawful take from Marine Protected Areas, lobster report card violations, an unlawful Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel operation and even a DUI.

One particularly notable case was in San Diego, where wildlife officers on boat patrol pulled up on a vessel with two persons on board. Upon approach, the men started throwing lobsters overboard. The officers quickly boarded the vessel and located 26 lobsters hidden throughout. The men were cited for an overlimit of lobster and report card violations. Another significant bust and citation occurred farther north in Orange County, where two wildlife officers made one case involving 27 lobsters taken the night prior to the opener (thus out of season).

During a large opener like this, the vast majority of individuals contacted by officers are law-abiding fishers and divers who cooperate with law enforcement and are even eager to show off their hard-earned catch. For example, in Dana Point Harbor in Orange County, Warden Andreas Gilbert contacted a group of four lobster free-divers (a free-diver is a diver who holds their breath, dives to the bottom for lobster, sometimes in the dark with a flashlight in one hand, and grabs the lobster with the other). The four were in possession of several legal lobsters and were extremely cooperative with Gilbert. After the contact, they asked to pose for a photo with Gilbert, who happily obliged.

CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division reminds lobster fishers to keep their activities safe. SCUBA divers should make sure their gear is in order and they are healthy and strong enough to safely dive. Most dive shops offer refresher courses for SCUBA-certified divers who may be rusty. At minimum, divers should try on all their gear ahead of time and hop in a pool. And always dive with a buddy – never alone.

Officers are always on patrol, and this year they are keeping a particularly close eye out for incidents of poaching from commercial traps. The State of California has partnered with commercial lobster fishers on permitting and scientific data collection for decades, and strictly regulates commercial lobster fishing in large part to support and protect the resource and industry. Stealing from commercial traps is a serious crime – in addition to being illegal, the behavior is unethical and unsportsmanlike, and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In July, a San Diego area poacher previously convicted of stealing lobsters from traps was convicted and sentenced to 45 days in jail, was fined $1,000 and all gear seized during the investigation was forfeited by the court. He was also placed on three years probation, during which time he must stay away from the South La Jolla State Marine Reserve.

Please visit CDFW’s lobster information webpage to review helpful information and links to current regulations.

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Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 322-8911
Lt. Scott Bringman, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (619) 562-2456

Succulent Plant Poachers Convicted in Humboldt County

Three defendants in a succulent plant poaching case out of Humboldt County have each pled guilty to two felonies and other misdemeanor charges, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office announced. Felony convictions included conspiracy and false filings with the government, and misdemeanor convictions included removal of plant material from public lands and commercial sales of plants removed from public lands.

The succulent plants at the center of the investigation are called Dudleyas. They grow in unique niches close to the coastline, typically on cliffsides immediately adjacent to the water. The poachers had a network of buyers in Korea and China, where Dudleya are valued as a trendy houseplant.

Removal of Dudleya, or any vegetation in sensitive habitat, can result in environmental degradation of habitat and a destabilization of bluffs and cliffs on the coastline. Some Dudleya species are rare or at risk of extinction.

Wildlife officers worked extensively with allied law enforcement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Postal Service inspectors to track down and collect evidence of poaching the succulent plants for sale overseas. During the investigation, wildlife officers witnessed the three removing plants from coastal bluffs in the Humboldt Lagoons State Park. On April 4, officers found the trio in possession of 2,300 Dudleya plants and more than $10,200 in cash.

All three defendants were foreign nationals. Liu Fengxia, 37, of China, and Tae-Hun Kim, 52, and Tae-Hyun Kim, 46, both from Korea, were handed a sentence of three years and eight months in state prison and a $10,000 fine each. Judge John T. Feeney suspended the prison sentences with the conditions that the defendants are prohibited from entering the United States without prior authorization of the federal government and state courts, and prohibited from entering any local, state or national park.

In addition to the fines, the defendants will also forfeit the $10,200 to CDFW as restitution. These funds will be used specifically for the conservation of Dudleya on public lands in Humboldt County.

“Together with prosecuting Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada and the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, we hope this conviction and sentencing will send a message to those who may consider poaching California’s precious natural resources to sell overseas for personal profit,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of Law Enforcement.

The case developed from a tip from a member of the public who saw something amiss. Anyone who believes they are witness to unlawful poaching or pollution activity is encouraged to call CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program, at (888) 334-2258 or send a text with the tip411 app. 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 Contact:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 322-8911

 

Plentiful Fishing for Crappie Proves Tempting for Poachers

Wildlife Officers Keeping a Close Eye Out for Overlimits

Law enforcement officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have made several recent gross overlimit cases on crappie anglers in the San Joaquin Valley, prompting increased patrols for anglers targeting those fish. Crappie is a sport fish common throughout California and most of North America. The bag limit for crappie is 25 fish per day.

In one case, a wildlife officer contacted three anglers in Madera County in the early morning hours of April 12 as they pulled their boat from a local lake. They were in combined possession of 404 crappie. Subtracting out a legal limit of 25 fish each, they were in possession of a combined overlimit of 329 crappie. The three subjects are charged with a gross overlimit of crappie, possession of more than three times the bag limit and failure to show catch upon the demand of a wildlife officer. If convicted, they each face a possible jail term, fines that will potentially range between $5,000 and $40,000, forfeiture of seized fishing equipment and suspension of their fishing privileges,

In total, wildlife officers issued a total of 10 crappie overlimit citations in the last week for 636 crappie in excess of the bag limit.

“We are pleased to see excellent conditions for crappie fishing right now and many honest anglers are catching a limit,” said CDFW Assistant Chief John Baker, who oversees the Central Enforcement District out of Fresno. “These gross overlimit cases are a prime example of poachers taking advantage of good conditions and depleting our state’s limited resources. This behavior should outrage the honest anglers who abide by the law.”

Anyone who believes they are witness to unlawful poaching or pollution activity 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. Danny Stevenson, CDFW Law Enforcement, (559) 967-4511
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

Three Abalone Poachers Hit with Heavy Fines, Other Penalties

The Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office has settled three major abalone poaching cases involving Fort Bragg, Sacramento and Bay Area abalone poachers, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced.

Two of the settled cases resulted in hefty fines and other penalties for restaurant owners:

  • Steven Yuan Qin Liang, 47, of Fort Bragg pled
    LiangAbaloneCase
    Evidence seized in the Liang case.

    guilty to felony conspiracy involving the purchase and black market sales of sport-caught abalone for personal profit. Liang, owner of the Asian Buffet restaurant in Fort Bragg, was ordered to serve 360 days in the Mendocino County Jail, placed on probation for 36 months and ordered to pay a fine of $15,000. He is prohibited from obtaining a sport or commercial fishing license for life.

  • Bryant Chiu Shiu Lee, 44, of Sacramento, pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of purchasing abalone for black market resale. Lee, owner of the Sushi Café in Sacramento, was placed on probation for 36 months and ordered to pay a fine of $40,000. He is prohibited from obtaining a sport or commercial fishing license for life.

Liang and Lee were both convicted in late 2017, following a joint investigation by the CDFW Special Operations Unit and Mendocino Coast squad that began in June 2015.

In the third case, the strange circumstances surrounding an emergency rescue led to an investigation and eventual conviction.

  • Justin Joseph Adams, 44, of Alameda, pled guilty to charges of conspiracy and taking abalone for black market sale. He was ordered to serve 210 days in the Mendocino County Jail, was placed on probation for 36 months and was ordered to pay a fine of $15,000. He is also prohibited from obtaining a sport or commercial fishing license for life.
Adams case April 2017
Evidence seized in the Adams case.

In April 2017, wildlife officers received information from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department, Elk Volunteer Fire Department and Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department about odd circumstances surrounding a cliff rescue in Elk, Mendocino County. Adams had been dropped off by a friend the day before at the headlands just north of Cuffy’s Cove in Elk. He climbed down a steep cliff to the water’s edge and harvested abalone during low tide, but when the tide returned, his return route was blocked. When he failed to appear at a pre-determined pick-up location, a friend called in a missing persons report. Rescuers found Adams stranded on the side of a steep cliff and extracted him around 2 a.m.

Wildlife officers suspected poaching activity may have factored into Adams’ predicament. The day after the rescue, CDFW Lt. Joel Hendricks and Warden Don Powers donned wetsuits and swam to the location below where Adams was rescued to look for evidence of poaching. In a deep cut under the bluff, directly under the location of Adams’ rescue, they found two bags containing 38 abalone. One of the bags also contained a half-consumed plastic bottle of water. After obtaining a DNA sample from Adams via a search warrant, they sent the sample and the water bottle to the California Department of Justice Forensics Laboratory. The lab matched the DNA evidence from the bottle to Adams.

Trafficking of illegally harvested abalone on the black market continues to pose a significant enforcement problem and further exacerbates the pressure on the abalone population. Black market values will likely increase with the closure of the 2018 sport abalone season. Wildlife officers continue to conduct in-depth investigations and arrest those who continue to poach and commercialize abalone.

“It is immensely important for wildlife officers to work with District Attorneys who understand the importance of prosecuting poaching crimes against the dwindling abalone resource,” said CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of Law Enforcement David Bess. “The Mendocino County District Attorney’s office has an excellent track record in this regard.”

CDFW’s wildlife officers and biologists alike hope to see the return of a recreational abalone harvest as soon as the abalone population rebounds.

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Media Contact:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692

20-Year Prison Sentence for Man Convicted of Attempting to Shoot a Wildlife Officer

A Humboldt County man who attempted to shoot a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CFDW) wildlife officer has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Shawn Eugene Hof, Jr., 25, was convicted in Humboldt County Superior Court of assault with a firearm upon a peace officer with an enhancement of personally using a firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm, using threats and violence upon an executive officer, negligently discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle, and one misdemeanor violation of “spotlighting” (using artificial light to poach wildlife). On Jan. 16, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge John T. Feeney issued the 20-year sentence. By law, Hof must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence because of the serious nature of the offenses.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 21, 2016, a CDFW wildlife officer was patrolling in Carlotta, Humboldt County. The officer saw a pickup truck with two occupants using spotlights on Redwood House Road near Highway 36. The driver sped away when the officer attempted an enforcement stop. During the subsequent pursuit, Hof began shooting at the wildlife officer from the truck. The suspects crashed their vehicle into a tree and escaped into the woods. Hof was on the run for more than a year.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and Humboldt District Attorney’s Office led the initial investigation into the shooting incident and, working with the CDFW Law Enforcement Division, applied intensive pressure to locate and arrest Hof. A group of private donors, including the California Wildlife Officers Foundation, California Fish and Game Warden Supervisors and Managers Association, California Waterfowl Association, Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the United States, The Nature Conservancy, Sportfishing Alliance and others collaborated on a $20,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. Hof ultimately turned himself into police on Aug. 10, 2017.

“We are pleased with the sentence handed down by Judge Feeney,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “It took a dangerous felon out of the community making it safer for the citizens of Humboldt County. CDFW thanks our allied agency partners for their efforts since the moment the incident began and the coalition of donors who offered the reward money. We’re relieved the situation was resolved without injuries to our officers or the public.”

Hof’s accomplice, Thomas Wheeler, 19 of Fortuna was sentenced last month to a suspended sentence of eight years in state prison for the use of a firearm in aiding and abetting the assault on a peace officer, evading a peace officer with wanton and reckless disregard for person and property, two misdemeanor violations for allowing another person to shoot from a vehicle, and spotlighting.

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Media Contact:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692