State Police: 150 illegal crab pots seized

TILLAMOOK, Ore. - A three-month investigation by Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division into illegal crabbing activity conducted by a Garibaldi-based fishing vessel led to the recovery of over 150 illegal crab pots, some of which may be stolen.

The owner of the fishing vessel Valkyrie was cited last week. Charges are still pending in the case.

State police plans a public viewing June 9 of seized crab gear with markings not associated with the fishing vessel Valkyrie.

State troopers started the investigation in December 2013 after a mandatory hold inspection noted the Valkyrie deployed commercial crab pots in the Pacific Ocean and did not conduct a landing within 14 days as required by law.

The Valkyrie is owned and supervised by Aron Steinbach, 34, of Bay City.

The first captain was THOMAS WHITE, age 30, from Nehalem, and the most recent captain was a 52-year old Garibaldi man.

In February 2014, troopers contacted Steinbach and captain Thomas White, 30, about violations.

Steinbach was cited for Leaving Gear Set More Than 14 Days Without a Landing and White was cited for No Commercial Fishing License.

State police said it also became apparent to troopers that many of the vessel's crab pots had not been worked for long periods of time, causing concern that the gear could be killing, wasting and harming crab.

Starting May 6, troopers aboard the Department's Patrol Vessel Guardian, assisted by United States Coast Guard personnel and resources, began seizing Valkyrie commercial crab gear from the ocean near Cape Falcon.

Many of the more than 150 seized crab pots had evidence of multiple violations.

Several contained biomass in the form of rotten crab or crab parts, indicating crab were being caught by the unchecked gear and the crab were dying and going to waste inside the gear, state police said.

On May 12, Steinbach, who was in the Tillamook County Jail on an unrelated matter, was cited by state police for the following class A misdemeanor charges:

  • Waste of Commercial Food Fish
  • Commercial Dungeness Crabbing With Inadequate Release Mechanism
  • Leaving Gear Set More Than 14 Days Without a Landing
  • No Buoy Tags
  • No Pot Tags

Each charge may have additional counts resulting from the ongoing investigation, police said.

No charges have been filed at this time for the vessel's most recent captain.

Missing crab gear?

During the crab pot recovery, crab gear with different markings was found indicating some of the gear may be stolen. OSP Fish & Wildlife Division is scheduling a public viewing of seized crab pots to possibly identify any gear as stolen and facilitate its return to any owners. The viewing is scheduled June 9 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the OSP Tillamook Office located at 5995 Long Prairie Road.

Questions regarding the investigation and scheduled crab gear viewing may be directed to Sergeant Todd Hoodenpyl at (503) 815-3373.