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Farmers market favorite arrested in stolen fish case

FishingLifestyle and Leisure

One of the Hollywood Farmers Market’s most popular vendors has been arrested on suspicion of stealing other people’s fish and has been permanently kicked out of the market.

John Wilson of Sea Fever Seafood, a longtime fixture at the market, was arrested Sunday in Santa Barbara after a two-month investigation by the California Department of Fish and Game on suspicion of stealing rock crabs caught by other fishermen. Wilson, 53, from Santa Ynez, and Kai Griffin, 23, from Buellton, also are accused of selling other seafood out of season, including sea urchins and whelks.

Both are being held in Santa Barbara County Jail, facing felony charges of conspiracy and grand theft, according to the Department of Fish and Game.

They were quickly dismissed from the Hollywood market, where they had been selling. 

“This allegation, among others, has been more than enough for us to permanently revoke his privileged [sic] to sell at our market,” market managers James Haydu and Alexandra R. Agajanian, said in a written statement. “This is an unfortunate example of how trust becomes compromised within the community of chefs and customers who patronized his booth weekly.”

Sea Fever had a strong following among market shoppers because of the general quality of the seafood they sold, and because they offered many hard-to-find locally caught items. The last update on their Facebook page said they would be at the March 30 Hollywood market with “Alaskan halibut, Santa Barbara ridgeback shrimp, live stone crab & claws, wild coho salmon and more.”

According to the Department of Fish and Game, wardens had been receiving complaints about the pair from other fishermen and seafood markets for some time and began following them on their early morning forays to receivers -- tanks holding the collected catch of several fishermen.

Neither man was immediately available for comment.

For the record, 10:58 p.m. April 17: A previous version of this post included a headline that said a farmers market favorite was arrested for stealing fish. Vendor John Wilson was arrested on suspicion of stealing fish.

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