OAKLAND — Thirteen people were arrested Thursday on suspicion of being part of an abalone poaching network after fish and game wardens served search warrants on 14 locations.
The poaching raid included more than 100 Department of Fish and Wildlife game wardens who served the warrants throughout Northern California, The San Jose Mercury News reported.
Lt. Patrick Foy said 13 of 14 suspects were in custody after the raids in Oakland, San Leandro, Fairfield, Alameda and Sacramento.
Collecting abalone is legal, but divers must be licensed and are limited to 24 of the mollusks a season, and three a day.
Divers track their catches on a report card, and authorities said some of the alleged poachers had falsified their cards.
The poachers are lured by the steep prices abalone can get on the black market: Some average size abalone can sell for $100 each.
One suspect took 57 abalones in a season, mostly collected from the waters off Sonoma and Mendocino counties, Foy said.
Wardens had been tracking the group, which sometimes took multiday trips to the North Coast.
“They hit our radar screen,” Foy told KNTV in San Jose, and “we’ve been following them around, watching them do this in full scale.”