California Department of Fish and Game wardens have cited a man for poaching almost four dozen lobsters within a new Marine Protected Area off Orange County. It was the first major bust since the enforcement of a series of MPAs, or marine reserves, went into effect along the Southern California coast on Jan. 1.
Shortly after midnight Sunday, wardens observed Marbel A. Para, 30, of Romoland, Calif., and another person scuba diving in the Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve.
After the divers returned to their vehicle, wardens confronted them and discovered 47 California spiny lobsters in their possession. In addition to illegally taking lobsters from an MPA, the divers were well in excess of the legal possession limit of seven per diver, and all but five of the crustaceans were undersize. A legal-size lobster measures at least 3 1/4 inches along its carapace (see illustration at right).
Para claimed that all the lobsters were his and was charged with several poaching violations, including unlawful take and illegal possession of lobster, and possession of overlimits and undersized animals. "The vast majority of our fishing and diving constituents are responsible and law-abiding," said DFG Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorff. "It is always our goal to catch those who choose to intentionally abuse the resources of this state for their own benefit."
All the lobsters were confiscated, photographed as evidence and then returned to the ocean.