Hordes of people are descending on fragile Los Angeles-area tide pools to scrape starfish, mussels and other sea life from the rocks, city officials say.
The Los Angeles city attorney’s office announced charges Thursday against 45 people accused of overfishing, fishing without licenses and taking restricted species at White Point Beach in San Pedro.
“I understand how desperate people are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic — I get it,” said City Attorney Mike Feuer, reported the Los Angeles Times. “People have lost their jobs. Peoples’ rent is at stake.”
But Feuer said the overfishing threatens the future of the tide pools, according to the publication.
“This can’t continue,” Feuer said, KNBC reported. “This is not a way to feed your family or to sell a small quantity of sea creatures to make ends meet.”
State game wardens have found crowds of people armed with everything from crowbars to kitchen tongs prying sea life from tide pools at the beach since May, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Most of the violations involve exceeding daily bag limits and fishing without a license, Feuer’s office reported on Facebook. One photo showed 142 pounds of mussels harvested from the tide pools. The daily limit is 10 pounds.
Starfish, which are not allowed to be harvested, have been taken from the tide pools in such numbers that they are now rarely seen, the Facebook post says.
“There (have) been a lot of postings on social media, whether it’s Facebook or Instagram, saying to come down to this tide pool area and that the resources are endless and plentiful,” said Lt. Michele Budish with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, KNBC reported.
“The problem with this is that the earth and the ocean can only sustain so much fishing pressure,” Budish said, according to the station.
Harvesters lured to the San Pedro beach by social media posts have clashed with local residents, city officials reported.
“It’s a fun way to spend the day and grab a free dinner,” said Lisa Yan, 55, an unemployed casino card dealer, the Los Angeles Times reported. “Especially for those of us who lost jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic.”
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration describes a tide pool as “an isolated pocket of seawater found in the ocean’s intertidal zone.”
Small basins at the ocean’s edge fill with seawater as the tide recedes, supporting a vibrant ecosystem of mussels, starfish, anemones, snails, sea urchins, crabs and other life.