An Oakland couple nabbed for poaching 108 commercial grade Dungeness crabs had the crustaceans stashed out of sight in a specially modified boat with secret compartments, according to prosecutors.
The discovery of the haul — five times the legal limit — led to the arrest and prosecution of spouses Minh Tran, 54, and Mai Tran, 52, both of Oakland. On Wednesday, both were sentenced for misdemeanor counts of taking more than three times the crab limit and illegally taking the crabs for profit. A third charge of failing to display the catch to warden upon demand was dismissed as part of a plea deal.
Minh Tran, who has prior convictions for the same conduct in a different county, received 10 days in jail, three years of court probation and a $20,580 fine. Mai Tran received five days jail followed by two years of court probation.
The pair must also forfeit their boat to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife which typically auctions them off but in this case will likely destroy it because of the compartments.
The pair were in an 18-foot Boston Whaler power boat at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay when approached Feb. 15 by a Department of Fish and Wildlife warden. The warden asked them if they had any luck fishing and was told they had caught 20 crabs, visible in an open ice chest, which is the limit allowed at 10 each.
The warden inspected the boat as the Trans loaded it onto their trailer and found a canvass bag under rope in the vehicle’s front anchor components. The bag held 16 more crabs. The pair denied having any more but further inspection turned up 56 crabs hidden behind the boat batteries in the driver console and 16 others hidden in sections where the fiberglass backing had been cut away under the driver and passenger seat cushions. By the end, 108 commercial grade Dungeness crabs were recovered and returned to the ocean.
“It was almost like a drug boat with all those secret spaces,” District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
The Trans’ attorney, Nichole Ryan, could not be reached for comment.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102