By: Parimal M. Rohit
SANTA BARBARA – A commercial fisherman who was reportedly arrested in April on suspicion of stealing crabs from the holding tanks of other fishermen was given 30 days to leave his Santa Barbara slip.
John Wilson, a 53-year-old commercial fisherman who was arrested on accusations of stealing fish from his colleague, reportedly entered into a plea deal in August, agreeing to a sentenced term of three years felony probation and six months in county jail. A formal sentence is scheduled for Oct. 28.
Wilson also pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor charges.
At the Santa Barbara Harbor Commission meeting on Sept. 25, Harbor Manager Mick Kronman told commissioners that Wilson was given a termination notice on his 60-foot slip in the marina.
“Given the severity of the crime and the severity of the circumstances, he has been issued a 30-day notice of slip permit termination,” Kronman said, adding the notice was issued Sept. 12.
Wilson would be able to appeal the termination after Oct. 12.
“Mr. Wilson agreed to a pretty severe term,” Kronman said. “If there’s any indication how seriously the courts and the Department of Fish and Wildlife take crimes against marine resources, this should serve as a cautionary tale.”
According to a statement issued by Santa Barbara Deputy District Attorney Kevin Weichbrod, Wilson’s plea “demonstrates Santa Barbara County’s dedication to our fishing community and to those fishermen who do their utmost to abide by all the laws and regulations in the course of their profession and help protect our local resources.”
The district attorney’s office reported Wilson pleaded no contest to four felony counts of grand theft of aqua-cultural product in addition to the five misdemeanor charges of fishing species out of season, failing to service traps in a timely manner, failing to maintain proper records and receipts of commercial catch, and selling stolen catch at fish markets.
Wilson’s plea deal also calls for him to pay restitution to victims and investigation costs to the state. Once the formal sentencing is complete later this month, Wilson would be prohibited from fishing until his case is closed.
The proprietor of Sea Fever Seafood and reportedly a regular at Hollywood Farmers’ Market, Wilson was arrested after a two-month investigation by state officials. Also arrested was Wilson’s assistant, Kai Griffin.