SAN FRANCISCO, California -- A San Francisco man who was caught taking abalone out of season three times over a three-week span has been convicted on poaching charges. Qiong Wang, 32, pled guilty to felony conspiracy and taking abalone for commercial purposes in Mendocino County Superior Court. He was sentenced to one year in jail and three years of probation, in addition to being fined $20,000 and forced to forfeit his vehicle and all dive equipment. His fishing license was also revoked for the rest of his life.
Wang illegally took 96 abalone over the course of a poaching spree that spanned 17 days in February 2011.
On Feb. 2, an officer from the Petaluma Police Department contacted Wang in Petaluma during an investigation of another crime. He found him in possession of five abalone. The officer was aware that abalone season was closed. He cited and released Wang for four poaching misdemeanors (unlawful take, take of abalone out of season, possession of an overlimit and failure to tag).
On Feb. 12, a Mendocino County Sheriff's deputy stopped Wang for speeding on Highway 28 near Boonville. The deputy found two wet duffel bags containing fresh abalone in the back seat and contacted his dispatch to request assistance from a DFG warden. Warden Don Powers responded and discovered 36 red abalone, five of which were undersize. Powers also found five SCUBA tanks and associated SCUBA diving gear in the trunk of Wang's car. Wang was booked into Mendocino County Jail for possession of abalone for commercial sale. His Toyota sedan and all dive gear were seized as evidence.
On Feb. 19, five days after being released from jail for the last poaching incident, Wang and Trevors were spotted using SCUBA gear to poach abalone from a rented kayak in Van Damme State Park. For approximately two hours, wardens watched as the partners kayaked into the ocean and collected 55 abalone. The men returned to shore, stashed the abalone near the beach and drove to the Sub-Surface Progression dive shop in Fort Bragg to return the rented kayak. Wardens contacted the pair at the dive shop. Both men were arrested and booked into Mendocino County Jail. Wardens recovered the hidden abalone and Trevors' vehicle and all related dive gear were seized.
Despite aggressive enforcement and prosecution, wardens have noticed an increase in abalone poaching over the last few years, on the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts in particular. "For many abalone poachers, the profit from the illegal sale of abalone clearly outweighs the risks of getting caught," said DFG Assistant Chief Tony Warrington.
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