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Man arrested on charges of poaching abalone


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Posted by on January 21, 2008 at 03:09:52:

Sonoma County -- A Redwood City man on probation for poaching abalone was released on bail from the Sonoma County jail today after being cited for illegally harvesting the prized and regulated shellfish for the third time in less than a year.

Mark Fresquez, 50, was arrested at about 6 p.m. Saturday after undercover state Department of Fish and Game wardens watched him emerge from the water near Fort Ross on the Sonoma County coast with 11 abalone, Game Warden Patrick Foy said.

The legal daily limit during the season is three, but abalone season ended Nov. 30. The arrest came at essentially the same spot where Fresquez was caught twice before, according to the Department of Fish and Game.

"He's just a guy who has absolutely no regard not only for fish and game law, but also the sentences that are handed down by the judges," Foy said.

Park rangers at Fort Ross cited Fresquez in May for having seven abalone - more than double the legal limit, Foy said. Fresquez was found guilty and put on probation, Foy said.

In November, Fresquez and a friend were caught in the same area with 28 abalone, Foy said. Fresquez was arrested, found guilty and put on probation a second time, officials said.

"Obviously, he didn't learn his lesson," Foy said.

Game wardens received a tip on their citizen hot-line that Fresquez planned to again illegally harvest abalone, which can fetch from $50 to $100 when sold to restaurants or simply customers on the street, Foy said.

Game wardens set up surveillance and arrested Fresquez after he emerged from the water, Foy said. He was booked into the Sonoma County jail on poaching charges and probation violations, an official there said. Fresquez was released today after posting $3,000 in bail, a jail official said.

Fresquez did not return a call to his home seeking comment.

Authorities suspect he was selling his catch.

"When poachers get to that level of effort, there's usually some financial motive, but we don't have evidence to prove it," Foy said. "There are those (poachers) who already have buyers lined up waiting for them. They simply drive from restaurant to restaurant and drop them off. Less sophisticated ones have abalone in a cooler, open up their cooler, and see how much they can sell in a short period of time. They set up on a street corner, sell them in a hour and they're gone."



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