Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced today that 45 people have been charged for alleged violations that include taking sea creatures over the legal limits and fishing without a license at White Point Beach in San Pedro, where authorities say animals have been pried away from the tide pool areas with tools.

At a news briefing announcing charges ranging from infractions to misdemeanors, the city attorney said he understands that people are “desperate” after losing their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But to respond to that crisis by going to White Point and prying these sea creatures off the tide pools in the quantity we’re seeing, this can’t continue,” Feuer said. “This is not a way to feed your family or to sell a small quantity of sea creatures to make ends meet. I understand the desperation, but this is no way to express it … These tide pools have this intrinsic importance in this immediate vicinity where they’re located.”

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife was notified in May that crowds were descending on White Point Beach—with some people carrying crowbars, screwdrivers and garden tools to pry the sea creatures off the rocks, according to the city attorney.

Lt. Michele Budish with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said there has been a “dramatic increase since COVID, but also as a result of social media.”

“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,” Budish said. “The problem with this is that the earth and the ocean can only sustain so much fishing pressure.”

The city attorney noted that it’s OK to fish if one has a license and takes small quantities, but said that 77 sea urchins were “taken in one fell swoop from this location”—more than double the number of sea urchins allowed.

“You can take 35 turban snails. Twelve-hundred were recovered,” he said, adding that a lobster was taken out of season and starfish were recovered although they are not allowed to be harvested.

“We are alleging that these defendants have jeopardized one of our most fragile ecosystems,” Feuer said.

The city attorney noted that the tide pools have been enjoyed by generations of people, including children who can learn about sea creatures in the tide pools.

“I want to be sure that future generations have the same opportunities that past families have had to enjoy this location and that the role these tide pools play in a complex ecosystem up and down the coast can be retained,” he said. “You can’t just take sea creatures in whatever quantity you want whenever you want from these tide pools, and that’s why we’re prosecuting.”