REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KRON) — A commercial crab fisherman is facing charges for unlawfully setting crab traps in a Marina Protected Area off the coast of Half Moon Bay, prosecutors said.

The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office filed charges Monday against George Jue, who operates a fishing vessel, Take Time.

The District Attorney’s complaint alleges that on January 8, California Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens saw five buoys located inside the Western boundary line of Montara State Marine Reserve.

“When the buoys, and attached crab traps, were pulled, wardens discovered that the traps belonged to George Jue, a registered commercial Dungeness crab fisherman.  Wardens opened the traps and found 36 live Dungeness crabs inside the traps.  These crabs were removed and returned to the ocean,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors are seeking an injunction to stop Jue’s conduct with civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation.

Marine Protected Areas are designated by law and offer protections for marine resources contained within those areas.  The MSMR and Pillar Point State Marine Conservation Area are two adjoining Marine Protected Areas that extend offshore from Montara to Pillar Point in San Mateo County.  In a state marine reserve, such as the MSMR, fishermen are prohibited from injuring, damaging, taking, or possessing any living, geological, or cultural marine resource, absent a scientific collecting permit or specific authorization. 

The purpose of marine protected area laws is to ensure the sustainability of marine resources by limiting or prohibiting fishing in certain areas, allowing for safe breeding grounds and sanctuaries for large female fish, according to prosecutors.  Marine Protected Areas also help to boost fish populations in areas outside the designated protected area.  Studies also show that fish and invertebrates grow bigger in marine reserves than in unprotected areas, allowing them to produce substantially more young than smaller animals.