Licensed commercial fisherman, Mark Russo, who owns and operates the fishing vessel ‘Freeland,’ allegedly engaged in unlawful business practices by fishing for crab in the protected Montara State Marine Reserve, and now he has to pay for it.
On Wednesday, the Consumer & Environmental Unit of the District Attorney’s Office obtained a final judgment against Russo for unlawfully taking crabs from a protected area in violation of the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), which is designed to protect California's marine biological diversity.
To combat overfishing, coastal development, water pollution, and other human activities, the MLPA establishes a system of marine protection areas (MPA) throughout the state.
Some MPA’s, like the Montara State Marine Reserve, are classified as marine reserves, and it is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living, geological, or cultural marine resource without a scientific collecting permit or authorization from the state for research, restoration, or monitoring purposes.
The Montara State Marine Reserve and Pillar Point State Marine Conservation Area are two adjoining MPAs that extend offshore from Montara to Pillar Point with a combined area of 18.42 square miles.
The District Attorney’s civil complaint alleged that Russo engaged in unlawful business practices last year, that on Dec. 11, 2011, wardens from the California Department of Fish and Game observed and seized five crab traps that belonged to Russo inside the Montara State Marine Reserve. At the time of seizure, the traps collectively contained 58 Dungeness crabs, according to the District Attorney office.
According to San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe, based on a thorough investigation conducted by the California Department of Fish and Game wardens, the case was then submitted to his office for prosecution.
The judgment requires the payment of $12,500 in civil penalties and reimbursement of enforcement costs as well as an injunction requiring the defendant to comply with applicable sections of the MLPA.