By Kelly Burgess
A San Francisco man who was caught taking abalone out of season three times over a three-week span has been sentenced to one year in prison, fined $20,000 and had his fishing privileges revoked for life.
Qiong Wang, 32, pleaded guilty in Mendocino County Superior Court to felony conspiracy and taking abalone for commercial purposes. Wang was also forced to forfeit his previously seized vehicle and dive equipment.
Wang illegally took 96 abalone over the course of 17 days in February. The last of the three arrests occurred on Feb. 19, just five days after he was released from jail for a previous poaching incident. Abalone season closed Dec. 1 and did not reopen until April 1.
The legal harvesting of abalone is carefully regulated, with report cards and strict tagging requirements mandatory. Divers are allowed to take up to three abalone in a single day but cannot possess more than three at a time, with an annual limit of 24 abalone.
Despite aggressive enforcement and prosecution, wardens have noticed an increase in abalone poaching over the last few years, on the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts in particular. "For many abalone poachers, the profit from the illegal sale of abalone clearly outweighs the risks of getting caught," said California Department of Fish and Game assistant chief Tony Warrington.