Abalone Poachers and current effects to health of resource..

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Posted by Stephen Benavides on February 26, 2011 at 18:33:41:

In Reply to: San Francisco Abalone Poacher Busted Three Times in Three Weeks posted by CDFG News Release on February 23, 2011 at 15:25:19:

Date: February 23, 2011 10:10:11 AM PST
> Subject: CDFG News Release - San Francisco Abalone Poacher Busted
> Three Times in Three Weeks

This has nothing to do with the MLPA. Poaching is rampant and increasing, but so are the arrests.

Poaching abalone has now become a multimillion dollar business. Abalone are now selling on the black market for up to $100 each or more. At the last meeting of the Recreational Abalone Advisory Committee, game warden Capt. Steve Riske reported that active abalone poachers are able to make more than $100,000 a year, all of which is in cash and none of which is reported as taxable income. Times are tough, not enough wardens, lots of bad guys. Our money we pay for our abalone cards directly pays for 1 1/2 warden positions and tens of thousands of dollars of overtime for wildlife protection officers working overtime directly on abalone enforcement. This is used to fund extra enforcement in NorCal and pay for the checkpoints on busy weekends. Would it interest you to know that on some checkpoint days fully a third of the cars stopped receive citations for F&G violations? Obviously a great number of people do not know, understand, or care to obey F&G laws.

Were these particular guys ran afoul is they were caught with enough abalone to constitute a prima facie case for sport to commercial poaching. Commercial poaching is a felony. You also know they forfeited their car and diving equipment for these particular guys are going to have a felony conviction, possibly multiple counts. Then there is the IRS.... Unfortunately, the courts and the district attorney's are not particularly vigilant in demanding larger fines and jail for the misdemeanor offenses. The dive community continues to work with the district attorneys and judges in the area to educate them on the seriousness of the threat to the resource and the need to provide enough potential punishment to discourage large-scale commercial enterprise. One of the RAAC members is a retired DA and spends a lot of time doing this. If you don't like what the courts are doing WRITE them and suggest they do so. I do.

This type of large-scale sport to commercial poaching has very serious impacts on the Northern California abalone resource. Divers are reporting on a more frequent basis, large areas of the bottom which contained multiple scars indicating that large numbers of abalone and been removed from that area in the recent time by poachers using compressed air. Poaching has actually increased in frequency as the recession has lingered. This is
certainly one case where the vigilance of the Northern California dive community is really needed in order to protect its resource. You should know that there is significant evidence over the past three years which shows that the density of abalone at the indicator test sites for the north coast
have shown decreasing density of abalone across all depths. The loss of abalone from the deeper waters is especially troubling since one of the assumptions underlying the management of the Northern California abalone fishery is that breath hold diving (taking abalone on scuba is prohibited) ensured that we would not completely extirpate a species. Penalties associated with professional or commercial poaching of abalone should be made more meaningful.

Stephen G. Benavides
Member, Recreational Abalone Advisory Committee


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