Over the two days of July 9 and 10, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducted an enforcement blitz of B.C.’s Southern Gulf Islands to enforce provisions under the Fisheries Act and its regulations.
Officers from DFO’s Conservation and Protection branch (C&P) from Powell River, Nanaimo, Duncan, Victoria, and Annacis Island focused on current fishery closures for the protection of salmon and rockfish stocks, as well as patrolling closed areas designated as Interim Sanctuary Zones (ISZs) for the sustainability of Southern Resident killer whales; Rockfish Conservation Areas and beaches closed to bivalve harvest under the Canadian Sanitary Shellfish Program (CSSP).
The operation involved five vessels, one land-based platform and a dedicated aircraft from DFO’s Fisheries Aerial Surveillance and Enforcement Program (FASE).
Derek Chung is a Detachment Commander of the Whale Protection Unit of the DFO. Chung said that the operation was a great experience and a highly successful enforcement effort.
“It has been a long time since we’ve been able to get different detachments with different priorities and mandates together to do a joint operation like that,” he said. “To come together to share our experiences and information was greatly valuable.”
DFO officers patrolled from Gabriola Island to Race Rocks and over the two-day period, officers checked 76 vessels and 187 anglers. Officers found multiple violations of the act, including:
· retention of wild coho;
· retention of undersized lingcod;
· fishing inside RCA closures;
· transiting through Southern Resident Killer Whale ISZs;
· over limits of crab and rockfish;
· using barbed hooks while salmon fishing;
· not having descending devices;
· unmarked recreational prawn traps, and
· failing to produce fishing licences.
While warnings have been issued for some of these violations, officers will conduct investigations into more serious infractions that may result in the issuance of prescribed fines, or possibly a Court appearance.
Chung said that many of the violations occurred because of a lack of education. He added that the vast majority of people the DFO encounters are fishing recreationally.
“Sometimes our regulations change and people aren’t aware of what they need to do out on the water. Particularly with our whale protection program right now, there’s been a lot of new developments for the protection of southern resident killer whales and other marine mammals. That’s what we’re trying to do — get more awareness out there,” he said.
Anybody heading out to fish should first visit the DFO’s webpage on recreational fishing in British Columbia to learn about the various rules, regulations, and licenses necessary to fish responsibly.
“Get the information before you go. Find out what you’re allowed to do and what you’re allowed to keep. Definitely, be licensed before you go fishing and know what you’re getting involved with,” Chung said.
This operation was also conducted in conjunction with Operation Kelp Stout; a multi-agency U.S.A. and Canada marine-based blitz in collaboration with Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. enforcement counterparts U.S. Customs and Border Protection USCBP and U.S. Coast Guard.
Similar enforcement efforts will continue throughout the summer.
The DFO asks the public to do their part and report information on any suspicious or potentially illegal activities that may contravene the Fisheries Act. 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.