divers in spearing of giant black sea bass plead guilty

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Posted by on August 18, 2005 at 15:01:24:

SAN DIEGO Two scuba divers pleaded guilty Thursday morning to criminal charges stemming from the spearing of an endangered fish in a protected area off La Jolla in April.

Omid Adhami, who speared the giant sea bass, pleaded guilty to the illegal taking of a protected giant sea bass. He was sentenced to three years probation, 30 days of community service and ordered to pay $1,100 in fine.

If Adhami violates any part of his probation, he faces 90 days in custody, said Deputy City Attorney Michael Rivo.

Nima Hodaji, a diver who also was in the boat, pleaded guilty to entering a marine conservation area for the purpose of taking marine resources. He was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay $1,100 in fines.

A sheephead fish was found in the boat at the time of the incident. Although the fish is not a protected species, it is illegal to take marine life from a conservation area such as the San Diego-La Jolla Ecological Reserve.

Both men were ordered to give up their fishing licenses and their fishing gear including the spear gun, tanks and wet suits. They will be eligible to re-apply for fishing licenses after their probation is over, Rivo said.

"We wanted to take away their ability to re-offend," Rivo said.

In July, a boat operator who carried the two spear fishermen into the ecological reserve pleaded no contest to a charge he ignored posted signs in the area, an infraction.

At Thursday's hearing, Commissioner Sandra Berry told Adhami that she believed he deserved jail time as a result of the offense. Berry said the case has stirred up a tremendous amount of public outrage.

"How dare you, that's what everyone wants to know. Do you have any answer to that?" she asked Adhami during the hearing.

"I'm sorry," Adhami replied.

Berry warned Adhami that she would send him to jail if he fails to follow the rules.

"I do believe he deserves time in custody. I will be quick to impose it if he violates any term of probation," she said. Giant sea bass, which have been protected since 1982, can live 100 years and can grow up to 7 feet long and weigh as much as 550 pounds.

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