MONTARA STATE MARINE RESERVE, Calif. (AP) — California marine sanctuaries designated as off-limits for fishing have seen an increase in crab poaching, yet the wardens meant to patrol this expanding network of Marine Protected Areas are finding the job increasingly difficult.
California’s 1,100 mile coastline now has 50 Marine Protected Areas that cover about 354 square miles of ocean — or about 15 percent of the coast. A network of MPAs in southern California was added to the system Jan. 1.
Even though there are penalties for illegally fishing in MPAs, the fines are inconsistently levied because they are determined by county judges.
With crab fetching about $3 a pound, fisherman who can haul in thousands of pounds a day are taking the risk since the wardens have just one large patrol boat covering MPAs from the central coast to the Oregon border.