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Lobster Poacher Caught in Act, Officials Say

A Los Angeles County man faces stiff fines and jail for allegedly poaching from commercial lobster traps off Dana Point Harbor.

A Los Angeles County man faces several charges for allegedly poaching lobsters from commercial traps set around Dana Point Harbor.

According to the California Department of Fish and Game, 42-year-old Yanwu Li of Rowland Heights was caught red-handed Saturday night.

“Two wardens on a small boat patrol off Dana Point harbor Saturday night observed a small boat with no lights pulling commercial lobster traps out of the water,” Fish and Game officials said in a written statement. “When the wardens approached the 12-foot boat with four men aboard and announced themselves as law enforcement, one man threw a line with a commercial lobster buoy back into the water.”

Officials cited Li with four violations including disturbing a commercial lobster trap, fishing for lobster without a reporting card, possession of an undersized lobster, and fishing without a license, said Andrew Hughan, the department’s spokesman. Each count carries a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail, said Hughan. The other three men in the boat with Li are considered suspects, but they have not been charged, according to the DFG.

The department receives about two reports of stolen lobsters each week, but the law is hard to enforce because wardens must catch perpetrators in the act, said Hughan.

“Enforcement is hard on the water because they see us coming,” he said.

“The California Department of Fish and Game will aggressively pursue and arrest any individuals stealing from commercial lobster traps,” DFG Lt. Eric Kord, said in a written statement. “Theft from these traps directly takes from the salaries of commercial fishermen, and puts the lobster fishery at further risk since many trap robbers take anything they find from the traps, including undersized lobsters.”

“Commercial fishermen spend thousands of dollars on vessels, permits, trap gear, and bait to try and make a living off the lobster fishery each season,” Rodger Healy, a commercial lobster fisherman and president of the California Lobster and Trap Fishermen’s Association said in a release. “Those stealing from lobster traps completely circumvent the lobster fishery management system and involve themselves in the illegal take of a valuable resource.”

According to the Department of Fish and Game, California spiny lobsters are common from Point Conception to Baja California. Lobster season opened earlier this month and runs through mid March. Lobsters can take as long as seven years to grow before reaching legal size for fishing, according to biologists. To fish for lobster in California, you must have a valid California fishing license and a lobster report card and gauge to make sure they are full grown.

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