Poaching eggs is one thing but poaching on the sea has been a long time problem in Newfoundland. There are air and sea patrols to monitor, prevent, and eventually arrest the violators. It is not something taken lightly. But and not surprisingly it is a global issue. Wherever money, however small, can be made, theft is sure to be right behind it. And as often as not, too many thieves get away with it at the cost of those trying to eke out a living.
This is an article from the May 15, 2014 New York Times about poaching off the coast of Spain.
A CORUÑA, Spain — Roberto Mahia, 44, was leaning against his car waiting for the sun to rise before pulling on the frayed wet suit at his feet when two vehicles pulled up not far away.
“Those are poachers,” Mr. Mahia declared, staring hard in the direction of their headlights. “We know those cars.”
On this morning, however, there would be no confrontation. The poachers soon moved on, apparently unwilling to tangle with Mr. Mahia and the other men gathered here who were trained and licensed to scramble among the crashing waves of the rocky Galician coastline in the country’s northwest corner, prying loose and collecting a rare prize for epicures — gooseneck barnacles.
The work has always been dangerous. All the men waiting for daybreak had scars to show. Avelino Mosteiro, 54, once got 36 stitches in his thigh. On another occasion, he got 18 stitches under his arm. But the work also used to be highly paid before the economic crisis, when restaurants clamored for the rare crustaceans.
These days, however, the men and women who do this for a living say it is hard to make ends meet. Certainly, there are fewer Europeans able to afford expensive treats of any kind.
But worse, there are the poachers, many of them out-of-work citizens, trying to make money any way they can. Their scavenging brings prices down further and depletes the area of barnacles, forcing the licensed collectors to work in more remote and difficult areas, often for a poorer haul.
“Fifteen days ago, we were on those rocks,” Mr. Mahia said, pointing out a jagged outcropping in the distance. “Two of us were legal collectors, and 11 were poachers.”
In the heady days before Spain’s economic crisis, barnacle collectors, many who learned the art of dodging waves from their parents, could earn more than $800 in a few hours. But on a recent morning the men here had collected only four or five pounds of barnacles each, most of them small and of less than ideal quality. Perhaps, they said, they could get $135 for them, maybe less.
In the past, the men said, they would not even have tried to go out on a day with such choppy seas. But lately, they could not afford to let any opportunity go by.
The barnacles, known as percebes in Spanish, can be collected only under certain conditions, including the point in the lunar cycle when tides are lowest.
Along the coast here, some restaurants offer barnacles for as much as $80 a serving. In Madrid, the price can be much higher. Cooking them is simple. They are generally boiled for just a few minutes. Aficionados compare them to oysters, not for their texture, which is chewier, but for their subtle sea taste.
Spanish officials agree that the unemployment rate has prompted more and more untrained people to take their chances in the rocky inlets here, occasionally paying with their lives.
“If from time to time you hear about someone dying doing this, it is almost always a poacher,” said Rosa Quintana Carballo, Galicia’s regional minister of the rural environment and the sea.
In some areas, as in Baiona, a village farther down the coast, the licensed collectors have grown so frustrated that they are paying private security guards to patrol the area on land and on sea. The government splits the bill with them.
One morning, one of Baiona’s guards, Darío Freire, guided his S.U.V. up a hill so he could use binoculars to scan the coastline. He said confronting poachers was a dangerous business.
“I have been punched, threatened with a stick,” Mr. Freire said. “They have thrown things at the car and smashed the windows. It isn’t easy.”
Mostly, he said, he just alerts the police, who give the poachers summonses. But like José Do Val, 62, who readily admitted that he had been collecting barnacles that morning, most of the poachers are far too broke to pay the fines, so they are not a deterrent.
Mr. Do Val, who said he was once an executive in a food distribution company and dined regularly on barnacles, estimates that he has collected more than $135,000 in fines for poaching. “I’m not really sure how much it was,” he said. “It’s not something that really interests me.”
Galicia has struggled in the last few years with an unemployment rate of about 27 percent, one of the highest in the country. It once had a thriving shipping industry. But that is in shambles now, and there are few jobs that pay much for anyone. Police units assigned to stop the barnacle poachers are stretched thin and have perhaps more pressing business, keeping an eye on those who dig for clams in polluted areas, for instance, and then bleach them to make them look right.
“After what I have seen, I am finished with eating clams,” said Juan Da Rocha, who heads a regional police unit that concentrates on illegal fishing.
In Baiona, many of the barnacle collectors are women. Susana González works with her three sisters, who like her went to school for other professions, but ended up in wet suits instead. Though collecting barnacles is difficult, most of the people in this business find being up at dawn in the sea, without a boss, an attractive way of life. “You are free,” Mrs. González said. “I like that.”
After a successful morning collecting, the women gathered at the local auction house hoping that all the talk of economic recovery coming out of Madrid would mean higher prices. But that was not the case. Even the biggest barnacles sold for about $40 a pound, less than half the opening price.
“We really thought we would do better,” Mrs. González said with a sigh.