A commercial fisherman who violated California’s Fish and Game Code by engaging in illegal commercial fishing in a Marine Protected Area has settled the case against him, according to Santa Barbara County, California District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley.
Commercial fisherman Royce Renchard Zachary pleaded no contest to violating Section 12012.5 of the Fish and Game code after he was seen commercially diving and taking urchin in a Special Closure Area off the coast of San Miguel Island, the DA’s office said March 29.
“Santa Barbara County, with the Channel Islands off its coast, is home to some of the most pristine marine resources in the United States. Marine Protected Areas are critical to ensuring that these resources are preserved, and my office is committed to holding accountable those who illegally operate in Marine Protected Areas for financial gain,” the district attorney said.
As part of the plea agreement, Zachary was placed on probation for a period of one year with terms that he complies with all laws, including the Fish and Game Code.
In addition, he’s required to pay an $11,000 fine, half of which is to be deposited in the California Fish and Wildlife Department’s Fish and Game Preservation Fund, and the other half going to the Santa Barbara County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund.
The money in the two funds is used to support environmental projects in Santa Barbara County and elsewhere in California.
The case was prosecuted under Fish and Game Code Section 12012.5, which took effect in 2019 with the intent to increase the criminal fines and penalties for commercial fishing in Marine Protected Areas. Section 12012.5 imposes fines ranging from $5,000 to $40,000 for a first offense.
After two convictions, the Department of Fish and Wildlife can suspend the violator’s commercial fishing license. Violations are also punishable by up to a year in jail, according to the DA’s office.