Seven men in Southern California were recently charged in what the state called “an unlawful fish sales case.” According to a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) press release, the poaching bust involved a “network” of recreational fishermen who sold more than 5,500 pounds of fish for over $26,000 with “no regard to limits, documentation or adhering to the highly regulated business practices of the commercial fishing industry.” 

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David and Nicholas Haworth of San Diego were buying and selling the catches of recreationally caught fish without documenting or “landing” the catches. The duo also falsified official documents to hide their poaching crimes.  

The Haworths worked with at least six local recreational anglers who “engaged in numerous illegal fishing activities” including failing to register as a commercial fishing vessel or obtaining the required permits, selling fish caught on a commercial passenger boat, and altering documents—among other wildlife infractions.  

The recent bust is the culmination of a six-month-long investigation into the Haworths and their illegal operations. Nicholas Haworth pleaded guilty to two counts of the unlawful sale of recreational-caught fish and received a $10,000 fine and court-ordered community service. David Haworth also received court-ordered community service and must host six events feeding fish to the homeless at the local food bank—one of the more creative poaching punishments in recent memory.  

Mitchell Bradford, Lucas Dirkse, and Brandon Demelo pleaded guilty to one count of the unlawful sale of recreationally caught fish. They were fined $5,000 each. Tanner and Trevor Whitmarsh were charged in civil court for unfair business practices and must pay a fine of $60,000 each. David Brown didn’t appear in court and there is an active warrant out for his arrest.  

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“Many of us live in San Diego because we appreciate the region’s natural wonders, including the fish that populate our rivers and oceans,” said San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott. “California’s strict environmental laws exist for one reason: to protect nature and to ensure its existence for generations to come. Our ability to enjoy the outdoors depends on vigorous enforcement and prosecution of the laws that preserve our surroundings.”