SURREY, BC – Recent investigations by fishery officers with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) into the Boundary Bay commercial crab fleet have resulted in several convictions in Surrey Provincial Court. Four vessel masters received fines and forfeitures totalling over $287,000. One captain also received a first-ever fishing prohibition.
On August 4, 2023, Han Van Lam, master of the vessel John Lam, pleaded guilty to illegally fishing in United States (US) waters off Boundary Bay during the 2019 and 2020 commercial seasons. Under the Fisheries Act, it is illegal for anyone on a vessel subject to Canadian jurisdiction to fish outside of Canadian fisheries waters. Mr. Lam, who has previous violations, was fined $50,000, forfeited 96 traps that had been seized as evidence, and was prohibited from fishing for the first 14 days of the annual commercial season openings in 2024 and 2025. This is the first time that this prohibition has been imposed by the Courts.
On the same day, August 4, 2023, Michael Hau, master of the Muoi H, pleaded guilty to failing to scan his traps during the 2018, 2019 and 2020 crab fishing seasons, as per the conditions of his licence. He was fined $20,000 and forfeited a further $19,030.68 from the value of his catch.
On June 27, 2023, Hoan Trung Do, master of the Bounty Hunter, pleaded guilty to fishing in US waters and setting more traps than allowed under the conditions of his licence in 2018, 2019 and 2020. He was fined $160,000.
On June 23, 2023, Viet Dam, master of the Pacific Falcon, pleaded guilty to illegally fishing in US waters and fishing more traps than are allowed under his conditions of licence in 2019. Mr Dam was fined $38,000 and forfeited 83 traps.
DFO has a mandate to protect and conserve marine resources and to enforce the Fisheries Act. As part of DFO’s work to disrupt and prevent 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 DFO Pacific region’s toll-free violation reporting line at 1-800-465-4336, or email the details to DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.
- DFO has the authority to set Crab Area J licences with conditions that include: where to fish; open and closed fishing times; quantity and marking of fishing gear; the use of Electronic Monitoring (EM) systems, and record submissions. Licence conditions are in place for the proper care, control and management of the fishery.
- After lengthy consultations with industry and stakeholders, companies that own vessels in Canada agreed to the mandatory installation of video cameras as part of electronic monitoring. This initiative was piloted in 2022 and is in full effect for the 2023 season. Anecdotally, it has already resulted in a marked decrease in fishing in US waters.
- The commercial crab fishery accounts for almost one third (approximately 31%) of the wholesale value of the British Columbia’s wild shellfish products.
- Harvesters who choose to ignore the rules give themselves an unfair advantage, undermine the effective management of the fishery, and threaten the sustainability of the resource.
- Excess and illegal harvesting could also result in management changes or closures, diminish the significant economic benefit from the fishery to coastal communities, recreational fisheries, commercial harvesters and tourism, and threaten the traditional food source for Indigenous people.
- Crab caught illegally can be laundered into the legitimate retail market. Only fish caught under a licence permitting the sale or purchase of fish, may be purchased or sold in Canada. Any fish sold must be processed through a licensed plant to ensure quality and public safety. Fish that has not been inspected may be unsafe for consumption and post significant health risks.
Links: General Regulations section 65 in Canada’s Fisheries Act covers illegal fishing in waters other than Canadian fisheries waters – https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/F-14/
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