State Seeks Nearly $1 Million Fine from Poacher Busted for Unlawful Crab Trapping

The crabber stands accused of placing 92 traps in a Marine Protected Area, and faces a nearly 7-figure penalty.
Dungeness crabs
Dungeness crabs on the way to the market. Pixabay

California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife [CWFD] and the San Francisco District Attorney on May 27 sued a commercial fishermen for illegally setting his 92 Dungeness crab traps in a Marine Protected Area, located in the North Farallon Islands State Marine Reserve.

According to the Los Angeles Times, licensed commercial crabber Tran Van Tran was hit with a huge nearly $1 million lawsuit that prosecutors called “the most egregious case of unlawful crabbing activity in San Francisco’s history, as well as the largest incident of documented unlawful commercial crabbing in any Marine Protected Area in California.”

Tran has run his “Pacific Mist” crabbing boat since 2016, and state officials found his 92 traps with his commercial buoys and license numbers, which lead to the lawsuit.

In mid-February CDFW got a tip from another crabber that Tran was setting his traps in the closed marine area. That investigation led to state charges for 365 crabbing violations, recovering 260 Dungeness crabs in traps, and the court suing Tran for $915,000.

CDFW agents released the 260 crabs that had been caught in Tran’s traps.

The Farallon Islands area where the traps were set is a state marine reserve. The region is strictly protected by California’s Marine Life Protection act. “The taking of any marine resource is prohibited by law,” prosecutors stated in the Tran case and reported by the L.A. Times.

“The State Marine Reserves near the Farallon Islands safeguard a wide variety of significant marine life important to the people of California,” D.A Chesa Boudin said in a news release. “Crabbing and fishing in these waters is illegal, and my office will hold violators accountable for the harm they cause to this cherished part of San Francisco for their own financial gain.”

Anonymous Tip

“What’s remarkable about this incident is how we learned about it,” says Eric Kord, assistant chief for the Marine Enforcement District with CDFW. “Our officers received an anonymous tip from a commercial fisherman who said he saw another fisherman’s crab traps in the Marine Protected Area. He was concerned that this fisherman’s illegal activities would put other law-abiding fisherman in a bad light. This is a large-scale incident of unlawful take from a Marine Protected Area, and we might not have known about it had another commercial fisherman not reported the illegal activity.”

Tran admitted he had 92 traps in the area but said he didn’t know fishing was prohibited there.

San Francisco has five Marine Protected Areas near the Farallon Islands, that strictly limit fishing.