Commercial Lobster Fisherman Convicted of Poaching in Protected Marine Area

LOS ANGELES— On Dec. 8, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced the conclusion of a five-month-long investigation on a commercial lobster poaching suspect. The commercial fisherman was convicted of poaching lobster in a marine protected area; the conviction is on top of prior commercial lobster poaching convictions and concluded with a conviction in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Commercial lobster harvesters operating offshore San Pedro and Palos Verdes, Los Angeles County submitted series of complaints, CDFW launched an investigation of illegal commercial poaching activity.

By using a combination of multiple contacts and inspections at sea and the dock, home visits, analysis of marine navigation equipment seized during the investigation, and various surveillance techniques, wildlife officers concluded that Rustin Craig Wilson, 37, of Lawndale, engaged in several commercial fishing behaviors that resulted in potential violations of commercial fishing laws and regulations.

In addition, Wilson is known to wildlife officers for prior commercial lobster fishing convictions and was in the middle of a 36-month probation for those convictions by a Feb.13, 2020, court order. Wilson pleaded no contest to one count of fishing in the Blue Cavern SMCA and another count of failure to check his traps within the seven-day required period. Wilson was ordered to pay $885 in fines and penalties, ordered to perform 30 days of community labor, must forfeit all seized evidence, including traps and his GPS plotter, and was placed on probation for 12 months.

During his probation, he is prohibited from fishing commercially or recreationally anywhere in Los Angeles County, including Catalina and San Clemente islands, nor can his vessel be used to fish. He remains restricted by court order from handling the lobster traps of fellow lobster harvesters, commercial or recreational.

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