California game wardens recently made two new arrests in a series of black abalone poaching cases in Monterey County. The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) arrested Jerry Jones, 37, of Monterey, and Terry Callahan, 47, of Seaside on May 13 after being found in possession of 51 black abalone from Point Lobos State Park. Commercial fishing for black abalone was banned in 1993. According to Fish and Game Code Section 5521.5(b), possession of 12 or more abalone is suitable evidence that the individual in possession intends to use the abalone for commercial purposes. Additionally, on February 13 of this year, black abalone were formally granted endangered status by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Fisheries Service.

Despite the federally endangered status of the abalone, said Lt. Don Kelly of DFG’s Law Enforcement Division, wardens are seeing poaching operations on a much greater scale than in the past. “Poachers are taking in excess of 90 or 100 abalone at times,” Kelly said.

“Amazingly, many of these poachers have previous convictions. These criminals are knowingly breaking the law.” Monterey County abalone have long been declining in number due to a bacterial condition called wasting disease, as well as a historical precedent of overfishing in the area. But today, poaching is the greatest threat to the black abalone population. The animals typically sell for $50 to $100 each on the black market.

In addition to the abalone taken and killed for sale, others are mortally injured by knives and screwdrivers in failed attempts to pry them off the rocks. Whenever possible, wardens return confiscated abalone to the waters where they were taken, but often, the injuries prove to be fatal.

Kelly said that the continuing arrest and prosecution of poachers is key to preventing the extinction of these endangered animals. “It’s the highest priority of our wardens in this area,” he said. “If this problem is left unchecked, Monterey’s black abalone resource will disappear forever.”

Citizens who witness the poaching of abalone or any related offenses are asked to call the DFG 24-hour CalTIP line at (888) 334-2258.