On a recent dive I confronted a diver from our boat that was removing lobsters from a trap. However, it later occurred to me that it might be difficult to prosecute such an offense via the DFG for the following reasons:
– Reliably identifying a diver underwater, with dive gear obscuring many facial features,
– Proof! How to prove that the lobsters in the possession of the diver were in fact taken from a lobster trap and further,
– What if the diver releases the lobster before returning to the boat, even if I followed him to the boat?
In my incident the diver was on this charter for several years so someone I easily recognized, and was otherwise easy to recognize (the confrontation brought us inches from each other, and he had several features distinguishing himself from others on the boat). Then back on board, after I brought the person in charge of the charter in on the discussion, action against this individual was taken by the charter (but not involving the DFG). However if I wanted to pursue prosecution of this illegal activity through the DFG, what is the best way to handle such a situation–especially since I don’t carry my camera while lobster diving? Maybe a generalized answer for any illegal underwater game acquisition activity is possible.
In my case I took note of the color and pattern of the wetsuit, mask, snorkel, fins and game bag, as well as the general features of the individual (even though I immediately recognized him). Further, I opted to confront the individual while he was removing a lobster from the trap (perhaps not wise?) but did not follow him to the boat. I also chose to report this to the charter instead of the boat captain, although the charter and I did eventually discuss this with the captain.
It was very disheartening, enjoying some wonderful diving and having to witness and deal with such a situation. For the price of a dive trip, why don’t such individuals stay ashore and buy a dozen lobsters instead of stealing them?
No name please. Thanks.
Never confront a poacher directly. As you found out, this can get ugly. It can even get dangerous. Immediately contact California Department of Fish and Game poaching hotline by calling 888-DFG-CALTIP (888-334-2258). You did, however, do right by bringing this to the attention of the boat captain.
Point of note to any lobster trap poachers out there: Successful sting operations have been conducted capturing trap robbers. One of the DFG techniques is to plant lobster in traps that are invisibly tagged with an ultra-violet coating. When the robbers grab these lobsters, the UV marker unknowingly rubs off on their hands, clearly marking them as poachers. The deputies shine a little UV light on the suspect and–bam!–they are nailed.