Three rockfish harvesters found guilty of numerous violations under the Fisheries Act and handed significant penalties
December 15, 2022
Powell River, British Columbia - On November 16, 2022, the British Columbia (B.C.) Provincial Court found Da Zhou, Zhao Chen, and Ngai Chau guilty of significant violations under the Fisheries Act, including the obstruction of justice and violations of recreational fishing regulations involving rockfish and lingcod. The Honourable Justice Mrozinski delivered her sentence by prohibiting the three men from fishing for a year. She also ordered them to pay a total of $17,500 in combined fines and instructed that all of the defendants’ associated gear involved in the violations, including rods, reels, and lures, at an estimated value of $1,000, be forfeited to the Crown.
An investigation was initiated on the morning of August 10, 2021, when a concerned member of the public called the Observe, Record, Report line about a group of recreational anglers who appeared to be retaining fish over their daily limit, north of Lund near Divers Rock Regional District Park. Fishery officers from the Powell River Conservation and Protection (C&P) Detachment responded to the call and approached the fishers on the beach to conduct an inspection.
Upon seeing the officers, the anglers split up, ran in opposite directions along the shoreline and attempted to discard their catch. Once detained, the men initially refused to engage with the officers. Following an investigation, fishery officers seized a total of nine rockfish and one undersized lingcod as evidence and charges were subsequently laid under the Fisheries Act, including for obstruction. Failure to comply with fishery officers carrying out their duties, obstructing their enquiries, and attempting to hide evidence, can often lead to criminal charges and significant fines for individuals and companies.
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting Canada’s wildlife and biodiversity and 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 (DFO) has a mandate to protect and conserve marine resources and to enforce the Fisheries Act. DFO uses a wide range of tools to do this by pursuing a risk-based, intelligence-led approach. The Department deploys fishery officers to respond to priority issues through a variety of methods, including aerial, ocean, river, on-the-ground, night and undercover patrols, while also pursuing complex and large investigations, as well as education and awareness activities.
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 the toll-free violation reporting line at 1-800-465-4336, or email the details to DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.
Each year, approximately 300,000 tidal water recreational fishing licences are issued in B.C.. It is the responsibility of each angler to know the rules for the area where they are fishing before they go out, as these can change during the season. In all fisheries, repetitive, excessive harvesting poses a significant risk to the sustainability of Canada’s aquatic resources.
Possession and daily limits are essential tools in helping DFO fulfil its mandate and are carefully set by the Department. The limit for a licenced angler is one rockfish, and one lingcod, per day. Lingcod also have a minimum size limit of 65 centimetres.
There are more than 34 species of rockfish in B.C. waters. They are a very long-lived sedentary species with an average life expectancy of 75 years. Long-lived and slow to grow and reproduce, rockfish stay close to home habitats, which makes them extra sensitive to fishing pressure and some rockfish species are of conservation concern.
The significant fines, one year fishing prohibition and forfeiture of the fishing gear and illegal catch underscore the seriousness of obstructing fishery officers and violating fishing rules and regulations under Canada’s Fisheries Act intended to protect and preserve at-risk fish populations.
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