Two years ago, state wildlife officers made enforcing strict new abalone harvesting laws a point of emphasis by reducing limits and more strictly enforcing the reduced daily and seasonal limits and new tagging rules, which required every diver to tag and log their catch immediately after leaving the water. In some areas, road check stations where every vehicle on Hwy. 1 was stopped. Hundreds of legal sport divers (and others) were inconvenienced, but the overall consensus was in support the effort to reduce abalone poaching.

Officials inspect vehicles to enforce abalone rules. Photo courtesy CA DFW.

Officials inspect vehicles to enforce abalone rules. Photo courtesy CA DFW.

Also in 2013, with the new regulations and greater focus on enforcement in place, wildlife officers with the Special Operations Unit watched Dung Van Nguyen, 41, harvest 35 abalone –17 more than the limit for an entire year. Nguyen was later charged with poaching abalone and selling them for personal profit. It’s not his first conviction, either. He is a repeat offender with multiple past convictions for similar poaching crimes.

Showing how much of a priority this is,Tim Stoen, the deputy district attorney for Mendocino County, agreed to prosecute the case.

Two years later, Nguyen has pleaded guilty to one felony count of forging an abalone report card and one misdemeanor count of taking abalone for commercial purposes. As a condition of his plea, Foy said, Nguyen is required to return to court Nov. 11 for sentencing and to be taken into custody. The conditions of his sentence include 32 months in state prison (almost 3 years), a fine of $15,000 and a lifetime revocation of his fishing license.


A sign at Sonoma’s Stillwater Cove share the impact of poaching on the abalone fishery. (Click to enlarge)