Nine Nabbed in Sturgeon Bust "Operation Sacked Again"

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Posted by DFG News Release on March 21, 2008 at 17:50:29:

California Department of Fish and Game

March 21, 2008

Contact: Lt. Kathy Ponting, (916) 365-5704
Harry Morse, Office of Communications, (916) 322-8962

Nine Nabbed in Sturgeon Bust "Operation Sacked Again"

Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens arrested nine suspects Friday morning for violations involving the illegal take of white sturgeon in Operation Sacked Again. Arrests and searches were carried out by DFGs Delta Bay Enhancement Enforcement Program and the Special Operations Unit (SOU) after an investigation of two groups of local sturgeon anglers observed fishing in the Sacramento River.

We continue to throw all resources we can afford at the sturgeon poaching problem plaguing our river system this time of year, said Assistant Chief of Enforcement Tony Warrington. In this case, not only do we have illegal take of sturgeon, we have repeat violations of illegal use of young salmon as bait when the rivers salmon population is significantly low.

Over three days, investigators uncovered several violations including the illegal use of juvenile salmon for bait, retention of oversized sturgeon, failure to punch and tag retained sturgeon and taking sturgeon without a valid sturgeon punch card. When contacted, each group was found to be in possession of oversized sturgeon, one 79 inches and another 86 inches. Regulations require all sturgeon anglers to have a sturgeon report card and limit daily catch to one white sturgeon between 46 and 66 inches per day and three per year. Green sturgeon may not be taken or possessed.

Felony warrants were issued for the arrest of Su Fou Saechao, 20, Kao Fou Saechao, 27, A Fou Saechao, 26, -- all brothers from Sacramento and Pahin Saephan, 25. The felony warrants were due to their previous violations and history of illegal commercialization of sturgeon.

Misdemeanor warrants were issued for Pao Sio Chiew, 30, Ricky Saechao, 21, Torn Seng Saechao, 22, Cheng Chiew Saechao, 27, and Louchio Saeturn, 26, on charges related to the illegal take of sturgeon. All nine subjects were booked into Sacramento County Jail.

Su Fou was arrested and convicted last year in the SOUs Operation Egg Sack, which investigated the illegal sales of sturgeon parts and roe which were processed into white sturgeon caviar and sold on the black market. Su Fou was released from jail on these prior violations with probation terms including revocation of his sport fishing license, a stay away order from the Sacramento River/Delta water system, and a prohibition of possessing any sturgeon, sturgeon parts or fishing equipment. Evidence gathered during the investigation indicates he allegedly violated those terms of his probation.

This is the sixth major poaching operation conducted by DFG since 2003. These types of violations have unfortunately become very common along the Sacramento River and Delta waterways while adult sturgeon make their way from the Pacific Ocean into the Sacramento River system.

In an effort to deter this type of violation, in 2007 the Legislature passed, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law, AB 1187 by Assembly Member Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), giving courts authority to issue a fine between $5,000 to $10,000, a year in county jail or both. Other facets of this law allow the seizure and forfeiture of boats and vehicles used in the commission of the offense.

Adult white sturgeon in California are thought to be at their lowest level in decades and the federal government declared green sturgeon as threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act, according to Marty Gingras, Supervising Fisheries Biologist, Bay Delta Region. Protective sturgeon regulations were implemented March 1, 2007 in response to concern about the status of green sturgeon and white sturgeon.

Successful investigations are often the direct result of lawful anglers giving local wardens or the CalTIP program information about poaching incidents. Contact the 1-888-DFG-CALTIP number to report poachers and polluters. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.

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