Qiong Wang, 31, was arrested Saturday in Van Damme State Park on the Mendocino coast three miles south of Mendocino, Fish and Game spokesman Patrick Foy said.
Fish and Game wardens watched Wang and David Trevors, 28, of San Francisco, for two hours as the pair allegedly kayaked into the ocean and used scuba gear to collect 55 abalone, Foy said.
The men allegedly stashed the abalone near the beach and drove to the Sub-Surface Progression dive shop in Fort Bragg to return their rented kayak, Foy said.
Wardens arrested the men at the dive shop and recovered the abalone and Trevors’ vehicle. They also seized the pair’s dive gear.
Wang and Trevors were booked into Mendocino County Jail for felony conspiracy, the taking of abalone for commercial purposes, and other charges, Foy said.
On Feb. 12, Mendocino County sheriff’s deputies stopped Wang for speeding on state Highway 28 near Boonville, Foy said.
The deputies found two wet duffel bags containing fresh abalone in the back seat and contacted Fish and Game warden Don Powers, Foy said.
Powers found 36 red abalone, five of them undersized, as well as five scuba tanks and scuba diving gear in the trunk of Wang’s car, Foy said.
Wang was booked into Mendocino County Jail for possession of abalone for commercial sale, and his Toyota sedan and dive gear were seized as evidence, Foy said. He was released from jail Feb. 14.
While they were investigating another crime, Petaluma police also contacted Wang and Trevors in Petaluma on Feb. 2, Foy said. The two men were allegedly in possession of five abalone during closed season.
The abalone season closed Dec. 1 and will reopen April 1.
Wang was cited for several misdemeanors, including over-limit and out-of-season takes, Foy said.
Wardens have noticed an increase in abalone poaching over the past few years on the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts, Foy said.
Fish and Game Assistant Chief Tony Warrington said that for many abalone poachers, the profit from selling illegal abalone outweighs the risk of getting caught.
James Lanaras, Bay City News