CALIFORNIA—On Thursday, September 17, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced his Environmental Justice Unit charged 45 individuals with poaching marine life from White Point Beach in San Pedro. 

Feuer said that the “extensive animal harvesting has decimated the fragile ecosystem along the coast and it is uncertain if it can recover.”

“We’re fighting to protect these fragile San Pedro tide pools and the sea life that depends on them — a precious resource that families here have long enjoyed, and that I want future generations to experience,” said Feuer in a statement. “We allege these defendants have jeopardized that future by threatening this sensitive ecosystem.”

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) cooperated with the investigation that led to the charges. 

In May, CDFW officers were “notified that crowds of people—some using garden tools, screwdrivers and crowbars—were digging out enormous amounts of sea creatures from the tide pools at White Point Beach in San Pedro and surrounding areas,” according to a press release. 

Numerous individuals received citations from the officers and their cases referred to the City Attorney’s Environmental Justice Unit for prosecution. 

“Together with City Attorney Mike Feuer, CDFW wildlife officers are committed to stop the poaching activity taking place in San Pedro,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “It is critical to preserve these tide pools for their intrinsic value and for future generations to enjoy.”

The violations listed in the charges range from “fishing without a license to taking mussels, turban snails, sea urchins and other marine life over the legal limits” from the San Pedro beach. 

Mussels poached at San Pedro’s beach. Photo courtesy of the L.A. City Attorney’s website.

California law requires a valid fishing license for anyone taking marine life from the coastal waters of the state. There are also a number of regulations and limits to fishing certain species — some even are completely off-limits. 

The daily limit on turban snails is 35, while the limit for mussels is 10 pounds per day.

Each of the 45 defendants charged in the 23 cases face a maximum of six months in jail and $1,000 for each misdemeanor alleged, Feuer noted. 

“You can’t just take as many of these creatures as you want, whenever you want. That’s why we’re prosecuting,” said Feuer.