SAN PEDRO (CBSLA) — Forty-five people face charges for overharvesting mussels, turban snails, sea urchin and other wildlife from fragile tide pools at White Point Beach in San Pedro, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said Thursday.
Officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife were notified in May that crowds of people were digging out enormous amounts of sea creatures from the tide pools at White Point Beach in San Pedro and surrounding areas, according to Feuer's office. Some of these people were using garden tools, screwdrivers and crowbars.
"You can't just take as many of these creatures as you want, whenever you want," Feuer said in a statement. "That's why we're prosecuting."
Several people were cited by Fish and Wildlife officers, but others were referred to the city attorney's Environmental Justice Unit for prosecution of violations ranging from fishing without a license to taking mussels, turban snails and other sea creatures over the daily legal limits.
State law requires a valid fishing license in order to take marine life from coastal waters. There are also rules for different species, different coastal areas, time restrictions, and daily limits on how much marine life can be taken. For example, turban snail harvesters are limited to 35 daily, while the limit for mussels is 10 pounds a day, according to the LA City Attorney's office.
The overfishing at White Point Beach is a concern to Fish and Wildlife and conservationists because the tide pools are part of a delicate ecosystem that may not be able to handle the pressure of overharvesting.
"It is critical to preserve these tide pools for their intrinsic value and for future generations to enjoy," David Bess, Fish and Wildlife's deputy director and chief of the law enforcement division, said in a statement.
The 45 defendants charged in 23 cases face a maximum six months in jail and $1,000 for each misdemeanor alleged.
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