Calif. Lobster Fisherman Convicted of Poaching for 3rd Time

Lobster traps that had been abandoned. Photo: California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A California lobster fisherman has been convicted of a multitude of commercial lobster fishing violations, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) said March 5. It was the third commercial lobster poaching conviction for Christopher Miller, 67, of Los Alamos, since 2014.

According to CDFW, Miller has pled guilty in Santa Barbara Superior Court to falsifying commercial fishing records, harvesting lobster out of season, and abandoning at least 156 commercial lobster traps around Santa Cruz Island and the Santa Barbara Harbor.

After closure of the 2021-22 commercial lobster season and being ordered to remove his lobster traps by CDFW wildlife officers, Miller failed to retrieve any of his traps, posing a significant and detrimental hazard to the state’s marine resources, officials said.

Miller’s lobster traps continued to capture marine wildlife that was unable to escape or be released, and fish and lobster in those traps continued to die, then served as attractants for other fish and wildlife that became trapped, perpetuating the cycle, CDFW said.

Miller ultimately pled guilty to the violations and was ordered to pay $19,340 in restitution.

“Abandoning 156 lobster traps and ignoring other commercial lobster fishing regulations adds up to a significant detrimental impact on the fishery and will always be a high priority investigation for our wildlife officers,” Nathaniel Arnold, acting chief of the CDFW’s law enforcement division, said.

The CDFW said that its law enforcement patrol boat crews worked for months to remove the abandoned traps throughout the investigation.  

The California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project, a nongovernmental entity funded through the California Coastal Commission, assisted in removal of the derelict gear, officials said.