A San Diego County judge recently imposed a $5,000 fine on a Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel (CPFV) operating in a Marine Protected Area (MPA), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced. It was the first implementation of increased commercial poaching fines and penalties under Assembly Bill 2369, authored by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher. AB 2369, which is specific to illegal activity in California’s MPAs, went into effect in Jan. 2019.

The case was tried in San Diego County Superior Court and prosecuted by San Diego County Deputy District Attorney, Landy Spencer-Daly.

The case was initiated in December 2020 by wildlife officers aboard the CDFW patrol boat Thresher as they patrolled the Swami’s State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA), one of many regions of California’s coast protected by designation as an MPA. Swami’s SMCA is located midway along the coast of San Diego County. Acting on a tip regarding illegal fishing in the SMCA, the officers noticed the CPFV Electra on their radar and their Automatic Identification System inside the northwest corner of the SMCA. As the Thresher approached the Electra, wildlife officers noticed passengers on the boat reeling in lines and keeping fish. After boarding the vessel for inspection, the officers clearly documented commercial passenger fishing vessel activity and cited the vessel’s captain for fishing in the Swami’s SMCA. The case was solidified with further documentation of the vessel’s presence in the MPA via the shore-based radar Marine Monitor vessel tracking system. The Electra is owned by Helgren’s Sportfishing, based out of Oceanside Harbor.

In November, Helgren’s Sportfishing, through owner Joseph Helgren, pleaded guilty to a violation of Fish and Game Code, section 12012.5, resulting in a fine of $5,000 and an order to stay out of Swami’s SMCA for one year.

“The $5,000 minimum fine imposed

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