Friday, May 27 , 2016, 5:03 am | Fair 57º

Outdoors Q&A: Why Is It So Difficult to Catch Abalone Poachers?

By Carrie Wilson |

Q: As an avid abalone diver, it is disturbing to see all of the poaching going on. It is also disturbing that when the poachers are caught, they have such large numbers of abalone. Why do the wardens observe individuals poaching tens to hundreds of abalone over the limit before making an arrest? We have read so many stories about time periods passing with observation before action is taken. Is it something about the law that requires such blatant damage before an arrest is justified? Is there a promotion incentive for taking down an especially large poaching ring?

I dislike even asking a question this way, but along with applauding the department’s efforts, I am often left with this very question. Please do discuss this. For one person who may ask you this out loud, there must be many thinking it. Thank you. (Peter A. Wolf)

A: You ask some good questions. One of the greatest challenges of abalone enforcement is the task of separating poachers from the vast majority of honest abalone divers.

According to California Department of Fish & Game Lt. Patrick Foy, one of the primary ways wardens make a case is to contact divers after they exit the water. Contacting a diver in the water is not generally effective, especially on low tide days where there are hundreds, if not thousands, of abalone divers out. Poachers often try to blend into the mix of honest abalone divers and try to look just like everyone else to avoid unwanted attention. Other times, divers use SCUBA to harvest their catch, further reducing the ability of wardens to make contact in the water. Whenever possible, evidence abalone are returned to the water. We use DFW certified divers to accomplish the task, or we work with State Parks rangers and lifeguards.

The question wardens are frequently asked by honest abalone divers is, “What can I do to help?” The best action you can take is to be patient with abalone report cards and fill them out properly. Report cards are an excellent tool to help us differentiate between poachers and divers. Other than that, be aware of divers engaged in suspicious activity such as making multiple trips to their vehicle, stashing bags of abalone or gear along the beach, harvesting abalone for other people and giving it to them, etc. Report suspicious activity and suspect information such as physical descriptions, vehicle descriptions and license plates, etc., to CalTIP at 888.334.2258.

Tagged Deer Antlers

Q: Since deer antlers must have the tag on them for only 15 days after the season, why does the tag have to stay on the frozen head afterward? (Geoff V.)

A: They don’t. Tags are required to remain on the antlers for 15 days after the close of the season (Fish and Game Code, section 4336). However, since it is very difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between fresh and frozen meat, you are much more likely to avoid any questions if you keep documentation showing that any deer in your possession was legally taken.

Net Required for Kayak Fishing?

Q: I do a lot of fishing and diving off my kayak. Someone recently told me that I need to carry a net for landing my fish. I have looked through the regs, but I cannot find that provision. Can you help me? (Matt Sullivan)

A: Yes, that’s correct. If you are fishing from any boat or other floating device in ocean waters, you must carry a landing net with an opening that is not less than 18 inches in diameter. (CCR Title 14, section 28.65(d)).

Dredging in Ocean Outlets?

Q: I know suction dredging is not allowed in most streams and rivers without a permit, but what about the ocean inlets or outlets for streams and rivers? Would it be OK to dredge these points without going into them? (Anonymous)

A: DFW’s authority for suction dredging is limited to rivers, streams and lakes and does not extend to the ocean (see Fish and Game Code, section 5653). Our authority for regulating suction dredges does not extend seaward from the mouth of a river or stream.

However, permits may be required by the state Coastal Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or local agencies (e.g. a harbor district). We recommend anyone proposing to suction dredge in the marine environment contact those organizations directly to determine what requirements apply.

— Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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