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Fishermen Offer Halibut to Replace 'Big Mama'

May 04, 2000

REDONDO BEACH — Fishermen outraged over the brutal theft and barbecuing of a state hatchery's breeder halibut have decided to try to make up for her death.

They've set out to replace the 50-pound Big Mama and the 19 other halibut stolen from the California Halibut Hatchery in March and killed.

Confessed fish killer Taras Poznik, 24, has been sentenced to 6 months in prison and an additional 6 months in an alcohol treatment facility.

He said he took Big Mama, who was a star attraction on the Redondo Beach hatchery's educational tour, and served her at a birthday party.

"When that idiot perpetrated that crime, I just said, I've had enough," said John Collar, who grew up fishing for halibut in Santa Monica Bay.

Collar called on a friend, Rick Oefinger, who had a boat and together they caught three replacement halibut for the hatchery.

Other fishermen have donated nine more halibut, said hatchery manager Jim Rounds.

None of those halibut approach the heft of the 25-year-old Big Mama. But the three, which are 26 to 28 pounds, "are pretty good-sized," said staff biologist Gwen Lattin.

She said it would take the halibut at least a year to acclimate to life in a tank, and only then would biologists know whether they will be able to breed in captivity.

Poznik confessed last month that he was responsible for breaking into the state's only halibut hatchery and stealing the fish whose eggs have helped repopulate waters around the state.

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