Ventura crab fisherman acquitted of trapping in MPA

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Posted by on September 30, 2004 at 12:46:27:

Jury finds for fisherman in crab trap case

September 30, 2004

Jurors have acquitted a Ventura crab fisherman of violating California fishing laws because six of his crab traps were found in a no-fishing zone near the Channel Islands.

Jerry Peters said he placed the traps outside the no-fishing boundary, and currents or passing boats must have moved them. A Santa Barbara County jury agreed, and he was found not guilty after a four-day trial last week.

Peters said he was relieved, but the legal fight cost him $30,000.

He said that when he discovered seven of his traps, which were attached to buoys bearing his permit number, were missing last year, he called state Fish and Game officials several times and was eventually told six of his traps had been confiscated in June 2003.

Peters said that he had set the traps 600 to 800 feet away from the boundaries of the protected area but that traps are commonly carried long distances by currents or boats.

"I've had a trap move nine miles in a day," Peters said. "We're constantly looking around for traps. These are circumstances beyond our control."

Fish and Game officials declined to comment on Friday's verdict, reached after just two hours of deliberations. If convicted, Peters could have been fined $1,000 or faced up to six months in jail.

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