A Riverside County man caught poaching lobsters in Laguna Beach was sentenced to jail May 5.
The conviction of Marbel A. Para, 30, of Romoland was the first successful prosecution of a resource crime since the establishment of the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) off the Southern California coast went into effect on Jan. 1, according to the state Department of Fish and Game.
“This diver intentionally took a huge overlimit of lobster with no regard for the current laws,” said DFG Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorf in a prepared statement. “He didn't follow any fish and game laws, including the take restrictions within an MPA.”
Para had three times the legal limit of lobsters allowed to be taken — even in nonmarine protection areas — when he was caught, according to authorities.
Fish and Game wardens found Para and a companion after midnight on Jan. 15, with 47 California spiny lobsters in their possession, according to a release. In addition to the illegal taking, all but five of the lobsters were undersized.
Para took the blame for all of the take; his companion was not cited, officials said.
“Any time you have something that has significant monetary value, there will be a small group that will exploit it, regardless of what the law says,” Hamdorf said in a statement.
The court sentenced Para to three years’ probation, seven days in jail, a $20,000 fine, and other fees and penalties, according to the release. Para was also required to forfeit all his diving equipment and was ordered to stay away from the Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve.
“We were thrilled that the Orange County district attorney and DFG enforcement worked together to successfully prosecute a great case,” said Fish and Game spokesman Andrew Hughan on Tuesday.
No other poaching case is pending in Southern California to Hughan’s knowledge.
“The wardens have said the poaching community is well aware of what happened and we hope they will abide by the legal limits,” Hughan said.