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Sturgeon poachers convicted and will lose fishing privileges for three years

January 15, 2010 | 12:11 pm

Mr. Bubbles, a sturgeon that is part of the Dept of Fish and Game's mobile fishing exhibit.

Five Colusa County men convicted of poaching sturgeon from the Sacramento River have been fined, sentenced to probation and have had their fishing privileges revoked for three years.

Department of Fish and Game wardens had the men under 24-hour surveillance for a month prior to their arrest in April 2009.

The men had been observed night fishing on the Sacramento River, using unlawful methods to catch sturgeon and catching and keeping more than their legal limit.

Two of the men were also observed selling the fish, leading to charges of poaching sturgeon for commercial use. The commercial harvest of white sturgeon in California has been illegal for 100 years.

"The commercial poaching of sturgeon was the cause of the species' near-extinction in the early 1900s," said Kathy Ponting of the DFG Special Operations Unit.

"One of these defendants sold a poached sturgeon for a mere $120. That's a nominal fee compared to the substantial adverse biological, social and economic effects associated with the illegal sale and harvest of these fish," she added.

Four of the men -- Ivan Banatskiy, Andrey Bukaty, Sergey Solkalskiy and Serhiy Omelchuk -- entered guilty pleas, and one, Petr Kolosov, pleaded no contest. They were fined a combined $32,190 and four of the five received three years' probation, had their fishing privileges revoked for the same length of time, and had to forfeit their fishing gear. Omelchuk was fined for fishing without a license, but did not receive probation, have his gear confiscated or have his fishing privileges revoked.

Because California is a Wildlife Compact Member state, the men are also barred from fishing in 30 other states.

The state Fish and Game Commission may take action to seek permanent revocation of the defendants' fishing privileges.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Mr. Bubbles, a sturgeon that is part of the Department of Fish and Game's mobile fishing exhibit. Credit: Debra Hamilton / DFG

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