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Giant Halibut 'Big Mama' Still Missing, Feared Dead

March 24, 2000

REDONDO BEACH — Big Mama's suspected abductors are expected to face justice this morning. Her admirers are mourning her as if she were dead. But the mystery of her whereabouts lingers.

Was she purchased by an innocent restaurateur and is she even now lying in marinade, destined to be a dinner special? Or did deals go bad and was she dumped somewhere, her magnificent, 50-pound body already en route to a landfill?

Police don't know. But Police Lt. John Skipper, who netted two suspects in the brazen theft of Big Mama and 19 other fish from the California Halibut Hatchery in Redondo Beach, said he has no hope that the beloved halibut could have survived.

"I am almost certain Big Mama is dead and disposed of," Skipper said of the fish, who for 10 years was the star of the hatchery's educational tour and the source of millions of breeding eggs.

This morning, her alleged poachers are expected to be arraigned in South Bay Municipal Court on felony charges of stealing scientific specimens. They allegedly broke into the hatchery over the weekend, harpooned Big Mama and the other fish and took them out of the tank with a net, injuring several remaining fish.

Police followed tips to the Hermosa Beach home of Taras Poznik, 24, Wednesday night, and arrested him on the street near his house. A short time later, they arrested his alleged accomplice, a 17-year-old Manhattan Beach girl.

Police caught the scent of the suspects after the two apparently made several attempts to sell Big Mama. But the 25-year-old fish, whose eggs have replenished halibut stocks in the wild all over California, was not found at Poznik's residence.

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