The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has announced the successful prosecution and conviction of a Santa Barbara commercial lobster fisherman on a multitude of commercial lobster fishing violations.

Christopher Miller, 67, of Los Alamos, was recently convicted in Santa Barbara Superior Court. Miller pled guilty to falsifying commercial fishing records, harvesting lobster out of season, and then abandoning at least 156 commercial lobster traps around Santa Cruz Island and the Santa Barbara Harbor. It was Miller’s third commercial lobster poaching conviction since 2014.

After the closure of the 2021-22 commercial lobster season, and after being ordered to remove his lobster traps by CDFW wildlife officers, Miller failed to retrieve any of his traps from state waters. Abandoned trap gear is a significant and detrimental hazard to California’s valuable marine resources.

Having been abandoned, Miller’s lobster traps continued to capture marine wildlife that was unable to escape or be released, which would have otherwise happened during required removal and servicing. Fish and lobsters in Miller’s traps continued to die from no longer being able to forage or hunt for food, then served as attractants for other fish and wildlife that became trapped, perpetuating the cycle. Abandoned gear has the potential to increase the likelihood of entanglement with marine wildlife and can even be a hazard to human safety and navigation. Miller ultimately pled guilty to the violations and was ordered to pay $19,340 in restitution.

“The vast majority of California’s commercial lobster fishers abide by the law and provide Californians with sustainable, high quality locally harvested seafood,” said Nathaniel Arnold, acting chief of the CDFW Law Enforcement Division.

“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.”

CDFW’s Law Enforcement patrol boat crews worked tirelessly for months to remove the abandoned traps throughout the investigation. Due to the overwhelming amount of gear, the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project, a nongovernmental organization funded through the California Coastal Commission, assisted CDFW Law Enforcement with the removal of the derelict gear.

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