PETALUMA (CBS SF) — A Petaluma abalone poacher last week was sentenced to 90 days’ work release and fined $15,000 for selling the mollusks to a restaurant owner, who received a similar sentence for illegal purchase shortly after the arrests, the state Department of Fish and Game said Thursday.

Michael Sean Miller, 55, was also ordered on May 5 to forfeit all dive gear and fishing equipment after pleading guilty to illegal sale of sport-caught abalone. He is prohibited from possessing abalone in the future, Fish and Game spokesman Patrick Foy said.

In 2009, the restaurant owner, 51-year-old Pim Lim Szeto of San Francisco, was fined $20,000 and sentenced to 90 days’ work release for the illegal purchase of abalone. Both men lost their fishing licenses for life.

The state has banned the sale of sport-caught abalone because three of the four species found in California coastal waters are in decline, Fish and Game spokeswoman Alexia Retallack said. Aquaculture companies that raise abalone can sell it, though.

Anyone who dives for the highly sought-after seafood can only take 24 abalone per year—including at most three in a single day—and must register their take with the state.

“If you look at fine amounts and actual jail terms, you can see we take (abalone sales) very seriously,” Foy said. “When it gets out of hand, you see a decline in local abalone population.”

The investigation into Miller and Szeto, who owns the Pacific Restaurant at 1045 Terra Nova Blvd. in Pacifica, began in fall 2009 when California State Parks rangers made contact with Miller several times near Fisk Mill Cove in Sonoma County.

The rangers alerted the Department of Fish and Game, whose wardens observed Miller harvesting abalone and taking it to the rear entrance of the Pacific Restaurant, Roy said.

Investigators then reportedly watched Miller sell the abalone to Szeto.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

Comments (7)
  1. mary mouton says:

    I hate these poachers!!! They’ve ruined my weekend yearly camping trip; and i’m not alone.

    Once a year a large group of us gets together for an abalone weekend. Now we’ve learned that ALL abalone diving is illegal.

    I’m glad that these THIEVES have lost their licenses for life, AND each was fined. But if there was a way for me to sue, I would. They ROBBED hardworking people of a vacation, tradition, and memories.

    1. pete magoni says:

      Abalone diving is not illegal. Read the frickin story. 3 per day and no more than 24 a year. Any more than this is illegal.

  2. BigMan says:

    All abalone diving is NOT illegal. Check the regs.
    These poachers can go to hell, though, on that we can agree.

  3. Want to buy abalone says:

    ‘Were do you go and buy abalone legally in the bay area? I want to try it and see what the fuss is all about.

    1. Sundance says:

      You can Google restaurants that serve abalone in California and they will come up. There are a couple of restaurants in San Francisco, Monterey, San Jose, and the Central Coast. Be sure to call ahead to ask if they are serving abalone since it can be seasonal. And be advised, it’s very expensive.

      1. Here Puppy Puppy says:

        Following your advice I look it up on Google. Here is their web suite in case you want to follow up on it thanks. “”

  4. Gbarron says:

    There’s a commercial ab farm in Monterey on the waterfront. I forget what it’s called but you can get it there. Also, I think there is a commercial farm in Drakes or Tomales Bay as well in Marin. Maybe Drakes Bay oyster or Hog Island Oyster.

    Poachers wreck the ab beds, I love seeing the success stories at DFG. Poachers are a blight.

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