Fisherman snatches panga, officers arrest fisherman

February 17, 2015

pangaA fisherman cited maritime law in claiming a panga he found Monday in Santa Barbara County as his possession, but law enforcement officials said the boat belonged to them and arrested the man. [KEYT]

Eric Bjorklund and two other fishermen spotted the panga almost entirely submerged near El Capitan around 8 a.m. Monday. They were searching for sea urchins at the time.

The fishermen then spent an hour removing the water from the boat, tied the panga to their vessel and took off. Bjorkland wrote his name and the date on the side of the boat.

As the fishermen began to tow the panga, a Coast Guard helicopter circled overhead. Then, authorities from the Coast Guard and Homeland Security, as well as Santa Barbra police and harbor patrol escorted the fishermen towing the boat to Santa Barbara.

When they docked, Bjorklund refused to give up the panga, which he estimates is worth $40,000 with its two new motors. Law enforcement officials told Bjorklund the boat is evidence in a criminal investigation.

They arrested him for misdemeanor possession of evidence.



  1. Side_Show_Bob says:

    Interesting means of dealing with a catastrophic loss. As a skipper of an offshore boat, should I ever come across an overturned or submerged vessel at sea, the first thing I’m going to do is mark the waypoint an immediately notify USCG Sector Los Angeles and then I’d be on the look out for survivors and assist on recovery. Any Captain of a vessel, especially a commercial vessel would know this procedure. The fact that this seems to have been completely ignored by the commercial captain should be investigated by the USCG.

    (-5) 13 Total Votes - 4 up - 9 down
    • Vagabond says:

      Yep. It’s pretty much laid out. A case of hillbilly boat owner and ignorance

      (-8) 10 Total Votes - 1 up - 9 down
  2. Stunned says:

    The poor man had the right intentions he just forgot he’s not the Coast Guard I’m guessing. :)


    Definition of “Abandoned Vessels”. For the purpose of this instruction, “abandoned vessel” means any craft designed for navigation that has been moored, stranded, wrecked, sunk, or left unattended for longer than 45 days. A vessel is not abandoned if it is on private property with the permission of the owner. The Coast Guard’s characterization of a vessel as an “abandoned vessel” under this instruction should not be construed as affecting any legal rights or liabilities with respect to the vessel.”

    (1) 9 Total Votes - 5 up - 4 down
  3. TaxMeAgain says:

    The rules have changed folks. Law Enforcement can take almost anything they want:

    (13) 17 Total Votes - 15 up - 2 down
  4. sezlittle1 says:

    He has been arrested before for trafficking large amounts of marijuana. This panga was probably his in the first place.

    (3) 19 Total Votes - 11 up - 8 down
    • Vagabond says:

      Now that is too funny, I wonder if he’s on probation too?

      (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
    • Side_Show_Bob says:

      That’s some good bird-doggin’ you did there sezlittle. You know darned well this dude was in on it with a background like that one. What a douche!

      I hope there’s something they’re able to hang on this guy. He’s dirty.

      (1) 9 Total Votes - 5 up - 4 down
  5. Vagabond says:

    Sorry for the long post, but according to The Abandoned Shipwreck act of 1987 the STATE has ownership of wrecks within 3 NM of shore, the fisherman may be out of luck.

    Abandoned Shipwreck Act (ASA)
    Reproduced from Encyclopedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology, edited by James P. Delgado, British Museum Press, London, 1997.
    Michele Aubry

    Law of 1987 that establishes government ownership over the majority of abandoned shipwrecks located in waters of the United States of America and creates a framework within which shipwrecks are managed. Enacted in 1988, it affirms the authority of State governments to claim and manage abandoned shipwrecks on State submerged lands. It makes the laws of salvage and finds not apply to any shipwreck covered under the Act and asserts that shipwrecks are multiple-use resources.

    Since the 1950s, citing the Submerged Lands Act of 1953, State governments have claimed title to and control over abandoned shipwrecks on State submerged lands. By the 1980s, over half of the States had enacted laws and established programmes to manage abandoned historic shipwrecks in State waters. However, Federal Admiralty Court also claimed jurisdiction over abandoned shipwrecks. Admiralty courts often treated historic shipwrecks as commodities lost at sea that were in marine peril and in need of salvage to be returned to commerce. Salvage awards often disregarded a shipwreck’s historical or archaeological values, thereby causing a loss of important scientific information. Nonetheless, some States prevailed in their claims to title and management authority over abandoned shipwrecks in State waters. The result was confusion and inconsistency from court to court and from State to State over ownership and regulatory control of abandoned shipwrecks.

    These problems were resolved by the Abandoned Shipwreck Act. Under the statute, the US Government asserted title to three classes of abandoned shipwrecks located within three nautical miles of the US coastline and in the internal navigable waters of the United States. The Act covers abandoned shipwrecks that are embedded in submerged lands, abandoned shipwrecks that are embedded in coralline formations protected by a State, and abandoned shipwrecks that are on submerged lands and included in or determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Upon asserting title to these shipwrecks, the US Government transferred its title to the government entity that owns the submerged lands containing the shipwrecks. As a result, State governments have title to shipwrecks located on State lands, the US Government has title to shipwrecks located on Federal lands, and Indian tribes have title to shipwrecks located on Indian lands.

    (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
    • Vagabond says:

      He probably got the misdemeanor charge because he refused to hand it over, just like finding a sack full of money, you are supposed to take it to the police then file a claim for it. If the police can’t find the owner or prosecute for confiscation then it goes to the finder, of course by then the motors will be useless because you need to dewater them right away. But hey, rules are rules regardless of common sense.

      (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
      • Vagabond says:

        I have a feeling the real reason this article is here is so the editors could use the word snatch (Old time Trib readers will get that joke)

        (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
    • OnTheOtherHand says:

      Thanks for the research. A lot of people commenting here apparently have missed the fine points of “Maritime Salvage Law” — I have to plead ignorance as well. Combined with his past history as a pot grower/dealer, I suspect that this guy makes a habit of slipping past the edges of the law when he can profit from it. I disagree with the laws on marijuana but have no real sympathy in Bjorklund’s case.

      (-1) 5 Total Votes - 2 up - 3 down
      • Vagabond says:

        Ya, I want to be on his side “finders keepers” But that isn’t the law.

        (-1) 5 Total Votes - 2 up - 3 down
  6. womanwhohasbeenthere says:

    That is a pretty flimsy excuse to arrest someone who found a boat that the best and brightest couldn’t find. I doubt the fisherman will ever get it back but surely there must be a sympathetic attorney out there who could help him. Just goes to show, no good deed goes unpunished. The drug dealers get away and the fisherman ends up with criminal charges.

    How do they know it’s a panga boat? Does it say Panga Boat on the side? Will fingerprints remain if the boat was underwater? Mark my words, it will either be confiscated and used by law enforcement or sold later and teh finder will get nothing but a big attorney bill trying to save himself. Next thing you know Fish and Game will revoke his fishing license because he has a criminal record.

    Nice going you bozos.

    (9) 17 Total Votes - 13 up - 4 down
  7. Mikayla says:

    Is this the same Bjorklund that was arrested in 2010 for a large MJ grow in 2010?

    (11) 13 Total Votes - 12 up - 1 down
  8. NorthCountyGuy says:

    Welcome to the Marxist Police State.

    Apparently, the rule of law (esp, Maritime Law) and the rule of the U.S. Constitution don’t apply when asset forfeiture is involved.

    (5) 23 Total Votes - 14 up - 9 down

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