Wildlife officers have arrested two suspects for trafficking striped bass in Fresno County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced.
Leepo Her, 32, and Kue Her, 35, both of Fresno, were arrested Thursday morning, Dec. 8, on charges of illegally selling striped bass on the black market.
Over the last year, wildlife officers checked the two men on several occasions as they were fishing throughout California’s Central Valley. Both men were frequently found to be in violation of various laws, including possession of gross overlimits and retention of undersize striped bass. The two men were cited a total of eight times in the last year, and the egregious nature of their poaching activities led wildlife officers to believe they may be selling fish on the black market.
Wildlife officers analyzed the suspects’ citation history and began a focused investigation collecting an abundance of evidence showing that they had made thousands of dollars through the illegal sale of wild-caught striped bass. The investigation culminated in multiple search warrants served Thursday morning where wildlife officers located live crappie and bluegill in an aquarium, frozen striped bass, marijuana and evidence of a marijuana cultivation and sales operation, and methamphetamine and evidence of methamphetamine sales.
Striped bass were introduced to California more than a century ago and quickly became a highly prized game fish throughout California’s Central Valley. Known for its white flaky meat, striped bass are commonly targeted for consumption. Sport fishing activities related to striped bass generate millions of dollars annually to the California economy; however, commercial take of wild caught striped bass was outlawed more than 70 years ago. The continuing demand for wild-caught striped bass gives way to an illegal black market which threatens local bass populations and the legal sport fishery.
“This is another example of the threat that wildlife trafficking places upon a species,” said David Bess, Chief of CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division. “The fish and wildlife of California belong to all the citizens of the state and cannot sustain the abusive greed of traffickers.”
CDFW officers booked both suspects into jail and will seek prosecutions for numerous counts of Fish and Game code violations related to unlawful take and illegal sales, various drug charges, and possible child endangerment. If convicted, the suspects could face several thousands of dollars in fines and penalties, incarceration, forfeiture of assets and equipment and the revocation of their fishing privileges.
Anyone with information about unlawful fishing, hunting or pollution is encouraged to contact CDFW CalTIP, a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. The CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, is printed on the back of every hunting and fishing license. Tips can also be relayed by text to tip411, which allows the public to text message an anonymous tip to wildlife officers and lets the officers respond back creating an anonymous two-way conversation.
Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to CDFW by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411(tip411). There is also an app for smartphones that works similarly. For more information on the program and the new CalTIP app, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.