Illegal fishing enforcement teams seize hundreds of commercial trap gear and released large numbers of crab and other fish back into the sea
A joint Canada/US enforcement operation in the marine waters of Boundary Bay near Whiterock B.C., has netted several illegal crab fishers, said the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
The operation to combat illegal fishing was conducted by DFO Conservation and Protection (C&P) fishery officers, in coordination with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), National Marine Fisheries Service, Border Services and “Ship Riders” (multi agency police units on the border).
Utilizing three patrol vessels, 11 Canadian fishery officers from Langley and Vancouver coordinated their efforts with officers on US vessels as each agency enforced their own illegal fishing legislation on either side of the marine border.
Between Sept 11 and Sept 15, the enforcement teams identified and seized Canadian fishing gear in US waters.
According to DFO, four commercial crab vessels were subject to this operation, with a fifth currently under investigation. Other elements of the operation include;
· 334 sets of commercial trap gear were seized including traps and all associated gear like lines, floats, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags, etc. and will be subject to forfeiture.
· A large number of crab and other fish were returned to the water from emptied traps.
· Investigations are underway to support charges being laid. US authorities may pursue their own legal action against the vessel owners/operators.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, illegal fishing represents up to 26 million tonnes of fish caught annually, valued at between $10 to $23 billion USD.
Last year, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted and detained a Chinese vessel, the Run Da, fishing north of Hokkaido. It was caught with 80 tonnes of salmon, mostly pinks, and one tonne of squid. That’s about 60,000 salmon. To put that in perspective, the entire B.C. recreational fishing sector’s take of salmon was less than 110,000 for the entire year in 2018.
As part of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s work to end illegal fishing activity, the Department asks the public for information on any suspicious or potentially illegal activities, or any contravention of the Fisheries Act and Regulations. Anyone with information can call the toll-free violation reporting line at 1-800-465-4336 or via email at DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.