Sechelt, British Columbia — A group of recreational harvesters were found guilty in Sechelt Provincial Court on June 21, 2018 of violations of the Fisheries Act committed in the Egmont area, on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast. The Honourable Judge Steven Merrick ordered Li-Chao Tang to pay a fine of $5,000, be prohibited from recreational fishing in tidal waters for one year, plus forfeit a seized vessel, all of its contents, and all of the associated fishing gear, valued at approximately $15,000. Judge Merrick fined Cho Cheung and Kwong Tzang $3,500 each, fined Yu Tong $3,000, and ordered the same one year fishing prohibition for all three men.
In his findings Judge Merrick stated that: “Their conduct was reprehensible. A clear message must be sent to Mr. Tang and others that you must check fisheries regulations and they must be followed.” In his comments Justice Merrick also noted that the public interest in protecting the fisheries is hardly trifling, that everyone needs to understand there really is just a limited number of fish in the sea, whether it be recreational or commercial, that failure to follow fisheries regulations is serious, and as stewards of our environment it is incumbent on the Court to impose fines that reflect society’s condemnation of a serious environmental issue.
The Government of Canada is committed to safeguarding the long-term health and productivity of Canada’s fisheries resources, and the habitat that supports them, for generations to come. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a mandate to protect and conserve marine resources and to prosecute offenders under the Fisheries Act. It ensures and promotes compliance with the Act and other laws and regulations through a combination of land, air, and sea patrols, as well as education and awareness activities. As part of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s work to end illegal activity, the Department asks the public for information on activities of this nature 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.
- The violations of the Fisheries Act occurred May 1, 2017.
- The violations were observed by fishery officers conducting a surveillance operation to protect vulnerable rockfish populations.
- The group was found in possession of 15 rockfish, 11 of which were over their daily possession limits.
- Yelloweye are one of the largest rockfish species and can live up to 115 years, reaching a maximum recorded length of 91 cm and weight of 11.3 kg. They are a highly prized species by all user groups.
- Possession limits are calculated to maximize recreational opportunities while attempting to rebuild Yelloweye Rockfish populations which are currently a species of concern under the Species At Risk Act.
- Given the large number of recreational fishery participants in BC, the effect of illegal fishing (fishing during closed times, in closed areas, exceed fishing limits, failing to report catch) by even a small proportion of recreational harvesters can have a significant negative impact on the fisheries resource. Persistent illegal harvest could result in the curtailment of fishing opportunities for all recreational Rockfish harvesters, contrary to the goals of stability and predictability.
- The whole lower mainland of Vancouver is closed to rockfish harvesting and the majority of the BC Coast is closed to the retention of Yelloweye rockfish this year.
- Sedentary, with slow growth rates, rockfish can live to well over 100 years and many will not reproduce until aged 10 to 15 years. Rockfish cannot adjust to sudden changes in barometric pressure and rarely survive being caught and released. As a conservation measure, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has established 164 Rockfish Conservation Areas along the B.C. coast where fishing for rockfish is prohibited, many of which are located in the Strait of Georgia.