Lobster Poachers Caught at Heisler Reserve
Courtesy Dept. Fish and Game.
In a win for marine enforcement officials, two men were caught illegally taking lobster from Heisler Park Marine Reserve just after midnight Sunday in one of the largest cases of lobster poaching in recent years.
“In this case it’s hard to believe any part of what they did was an accident. These are people that were determined to take all they could and not get caught,” said Paul Hamdorf, Assistant Chief of enforcement for Southern California, with the State Department of Fish and Game.
The lobster were probably destined for the black market. “There’s an underground market for (lobster). Lots of people like to eat lobster, and will do things in exchange for lobster,” said Hamdorf.
The case, which happened just down the street from OWOO offices, is a reminder that legal protections are only a first step in preserving our oceans, and highlights the importance of enforcement and public awareness.
Rodger Healy, President of the California Lobster and Trap Fishermen’s Association, who has collaborated with DFG wardens on poaching studies and believes more enforcement resources are needed, said, “That sucks but that’s the way it’s going to be. They made one arrest but how many others are going to get by?”
Wardens with the State Department of Fish and Game on a routine patrol spotted the scuba divers’ lights in the water, and followed the divers back to their car, where they found 47 lobsters, all but five of which were under the legal size. Wardens returned the lobsters to the water after photographing them for evidence.
According to a DFG press release, Marbel A. Para, 30, of Romoland, took responsibility for all the lobsters, which were far in excess of the daily maximum of seven per person.
Heisler Park has been a marine reserve, or no-take zone, long before the January 1 effective date for the new marine protected areas in Southern California.
According to Hamdorf, the case will be prosecuted by the Orange County District Attorney, and if there is a guilty verdict, penalties will be set by the Orange County Superior Court.
Hamdorf said of the citation, “It’s on the bigger side but unfortunately it’s not even close to the biggest,” referring to a case in September in which five men were caught with 132 illegal lobsters in Redondo Beach.