As I prepared to write this third installment of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative series, I decided to take a twilight walk along the ocean for inspiration.

Instead I found apparent abalone poachers at Jughandle, two big country boys working with duffel bags at dusk on July 30. My dogs had alerted and pulled me by their leashes to the spot where a lookout dude was hunkered. The meeting was uncomfortable, both of us being both scary and surprised.

He said they were doing "underwater photography."

What better time for that than after sunset? I left quickly, all ocean poetry having been yanked from my heart.

I rushed home to call the toll free, "24-hour" Department of Fish and Game line set up to report poaching.

The line was turned off and non-functional, transferring me into dead-end voicemails. I kept at it for 15 minutes and tried a law enforcement number also on the site. No luck.

I knew Fish and Game enforcement was yet another casualty of the no-new taxes driven state budget, but I did not know the tip line was a casualty.

I realized I should have called the sheriff's department or local wardens like Eric Bloom or Terry Hodges, who give out their numbers for just such a situation. Then I realized I had found my muse for the story, after all.

This third article explores why many locals have reacted to the privatization of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) ocean preservation process as if they were dealing with poachers, not preservationists.