In the first case of its kind in 15 years, a commercial sea urchin diver in Southern California was convicted of poaching abalone and six other resource violations, given a stiff fine and his fishing privileges revoked for life.
On April 18, Robert Kenneth Laumer, 55, of Santa Barbara was fined $15,000 and put on three years’ probation by the Santa Barbara Superior Court. Laumer’s commercial and recreational fishing license and permits were revoked for life. He also forfeited more than $1,000, the proceeds from his sea urchin catch, to the Fish and Game Preservation Fund.
“Because of the depleted abalone resources in Southern California waters, it’s been illegal to take them for 14 years,” said CDFW Ventura County Warden Santos Cabral. The abalone found on the vessel, which ranged from 8-10 inches, would be considered trophy size in northern California, where sport take is allowed.
In November 2012, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers were checking commercial sea urchin vessels returning to Santa Barbara harbor when one crew member was seen acting suspiciously. A warden boarded the boat tied to Navy Pier and found Laumer and crew attempting to fill out their ship’s logs.
Wardens began inspecting the catch of urchins and found a red abalone shell. After a thorough search of the vessel, wardens found two additional shells and four live red abalone concealed inside a wetsuit.
Because of the depleted condition of abalone resources, the Fish and Game Commission banned all abalone fishing south of San Francisco in early 1997. Red abalone can be legally taken north of San Francisco during prescribed fishing seasons.
In addition to the abalone charge, Laumer was convicted of failure to possess valid identification, commercial fishing without a license, failure to possess a sea cucumber permit, unlawful take of Kellet’s Whelk and possession of undersized sea urchins.