Oakland Dungeness crab poachers fined, sentenced to jail time 

Two Dungeness crab poachers working in Half Moon Bay have been put on ice, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.

Minh Tran, 54, and Mai Tran, 52, of Oakland, were sentenced Wednesday on two misdemeanor counts of taking more than three times the crab limit and illegally taking or possessing the crabs for profit or personal game, both in violation of Fish and Game codes, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

The two were caught on Feb. 15 with a total of 108 Dungeness crabs hidden in various locations throughout their boat in Half Moon Bay, Wagstaffe said.

Initially, a Department of Fish and Wildlife warden made contact with the pair as their boat docked at Pillar Point Harbor. The warden asked them if they had any luck fishing and they reportedly said they caught 20 Dungeness crabs, the allowed limit for crabs at that time, or 10 per person. Twenty crabs were visible in an open ice chest, according to the department.

When the defendants finished loading their boat onto their trailer, the warden decided to conduct an inspection.

The warden looked in the anchor compartment at the front of the boat, Wagstaffe said, and found inside a canvass bag with 16 Dungeness crabs. The defendants then twice denied there were any more crabs on the boat. But upon continuing his inspection, the warden found 56 crabs hidden behind the boat batteries in the driver console, Wagstaffe said.

The warden then discovered that the fiberglass backing had been cut away from beneath the driver and passenger seat cushions, concealing 16 more Dungeness crabs.

All 108 Dungeness crabs were recovered and returned to the ocean, Wagstaffe said.

The criminal complaint charged the defendants with three misdemeanors, two of which they pleaded no contest to on Wednesday. They also faced a charge of failing to display a catch upon a warden’s demand.

Minh Tran, who had a prior infraction and misdemeanor conviction for Fish and Game code violations, was sentenced to three years probation, a fine of $20,580 and 10 days in County Jail. Mai Tran, who did not have prior similar violations, was sentenced to two years probation and five days in County Jail. The pair also had to surrender their boat, which prosecutors believe will be destroyed rather than auctioned off because of all its hidden compartments.

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