Posted by fred on December 20, 2000 at 21:39:53:
In Reply to: Re: Where is the story? posted by divemaster dan on December 20, 2000 at 21:18:14:
Abalone advocate may be a poacher
Santa Cruz member of Commercial Abalone Advisory Committee to be charged with stealing shellfish
December 19, 2000
By LORI A. CARTER and LAURA CASEY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Santa Cruz man who sits on a state abalone advisory board recommending ways to save the disappearing shellfish from overharvesting has been arrested for poaching abalone along the Sonoma Coast .
Joel Roberts, 37, is due to be arraigned Thursday in Sonoma County Court on 12 charges, including conspiracy to take abalone for commercial purposes, off-season hunting, night diving and using SCUBA gear to illegally gather abalone.
Roberts and Capitola resident John Funkey, 28, were arrested Dec. 8 in San Francisco. They were found in possession of 129 abalone, worth about $10,000, Department of Fish and Game officials said.
Abalone season ended last month. The legal limit for one diver is four per day.
The mollusks are considered a culinary delicacy and can fetch as much as $80 each on the black market.
Since 1994, Roberts has been on the Commercial Abalone Advisory Committee, said Fish and Game spokesman Steve Martarano. The statewide appointed body advises Fish and Game on tax-funded projects to save abalone from being harvested into scarcity or even extinction.
The committee makes recommendations on abalone research, restoration and enhancement projects, Martarano said.
"Usually those people are for saving the abalone resource," said Martarano.
It is believed that Roberts and Funkey were selling the illegal harvest to shops or individuals in Sonoma, Santa Cruz and San Francisco counties.
"How long he'd been doing this, we don't know," Martarano said. "We're still trying to figure out how great his involvement with abalone poaching is."
Konstaintin Karpov, a marine biologist with Fish and Game who also serves on the committee, said the committee is advising the department on how to spend about $350,000 remaining in the Abalone Resources and Enhancement Program Resources Fund.
The fund is financed with taxes paid by commercial abalone fishermen. As commercial abalone fishing was suspended in 1997, the committee is nearing its end, Martarano said.
Curtis Degler, a longtime sport diver and instructor at the Rohnert Park dive center, said Roberts' arrest is upsetting.
Karpov said poachers can severely damage the abalone population. "It's a big deal," he said. "As a research biologist I am very concerned about the impact of poaching."
Scuba diving for abalone, as Roberts is suspected of doing, is illegal because it thwarts Fish and Game efforts to create a deep-water refuge for the mollusks so they won't die out like they did in Southern California, Karpov said.
"That's crucial to continue to protect," Karpov said. "In Southern California, where there was no refuge of any kind, the stocks collapsed. There was both sport and commercial take and the stocks weren't able to sustain themselves under that kind of pressure without any refuge."
Martarano said the committee director appointed Roberts on the recommendation from someone in the abalone industry, but was unsure who that was. The department's enforcement branch also conducts a background search, which showed nothing suspicious about Roberts, he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 521-5205 or e-mail at email@example.com and Staff Writer Laura Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org
Post a Followup