Eager beavers get their craband seizure, too

Published on Thu, Aug 30, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Eager beavers get their crab
and seizure, too

By Meg Olson

Washington state department of fish and wildlife (DFW) officers seized a commercial crabber’s catch and gear for jumping the gun on a 24-hour opening for tribal fishers, and found a whole lot more. “This is what you call a major bust,” said DFW officer Russ Mullin. “It’s probably one of the biggest we’ve had in the last few years.”

Randy Jones, a Tulalip fisher from Marysville, was apprehended off Birch Point August 21 and was brought with his boat to Blaine Harbor, where the crab was offloaded at Star Fish. “The crab was seized because there was overwhelming evidence it was taken with gear that was set before the opening,” said DFW officer John Erickson.

Erickson said the seizure was the result of a surveillance operation. “We’d been watching them since prior to the opener. The investigation has been ongoing for a number of weeks” he said. “We watched them deploy gear.”

DFW officers allege Jones had his gear in the water before the 1 p.m opening time, which is borne out by the size of his catch. Over 1,200 pounds of crab were seized. “Not ever, not even on the coast and certainly not here,” said local fisher Harvey Wilson, helping offload the crab, when asked if that amount could be caught in the hour and a half between the 1 p.m. opening and the time DFW officers started pulling up the 20 pots. The seized crab will be sold and the proceeds will go to the Tulalip tribe.

Further investigation later led DFW officers to 40 more pots, lying unmarked west of Birch Bay. Rather than being marked by buoys, the pots were linked by ground lines so that they would be undetectable from the surface. DFW officers brought them up with a grappling hook and released the crab. “Some pots probably had 50 legal crab in them. On average there were at least 35,” said officer Russ Mullins. “With 40 pots that’s thousands of pounds of crab we released.”

Mullin said the pots appeared to have been set a while ago. “The bait was rotten and the small crab were all gone,” he said. “I’d say it had been there anywhere from three days to a week.”

The Tulalip tribe will be pursuing charges of illegal fishing against Jones, likely to include charges of fishing out of season, fishing with more than the 25 pots allowed, using illegal gear and other gear violations.

“Enforcement will be up to the tribe and I have every confidence they’ll do it justice,” Mullin said. “It’s become a Tulalip investigation we’re assisting with.” .

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