Major case investigation in Nova Scotia halibut fishery leads to heavy fines and licence suspensions

News release

February 6, 2024

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia - Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) manages Canada's fisheries and enforces the regulations related to the harvest, purchase, sale and possession of fish to provide for a safe, orderly, and sustainable fishery for all. Harvesters who break the law give themselves an unfair advantage, undermine the effective management of the fishery, and threaten the sustainability of our shared fishery resources.

The prosecution of a 24-month major case investigation into the halibut fishery in the Sambro area of Nova Scotia is now complete, with the last sentence given on February 6, 2024. This major investigation resulted in four trials, with five individuals and three companies convicted of 18 violations of the Fisheries Act and Regulations. Charges included failing to have catch verified by a dockside observer and providing inaccurate catch information in order to land more halibut than was allowed in conditions of licence.

For these offences, the individuals and companies were collectively fined more than $260,000- in addition to receiving the following penalties:

  • An individual received a 60 day licence suspension during which they could not fish or renew their licence; and
  • Another individual received a six month licence suspension, during which they were prohibited from boarding a commercial fishing vessel in Canadian or American waters; from possessing or acquiring any interest in a fishing vessel or licence; and from possessing commercial fishing gear of any kind.

Licence suspensions are costly penalties that prevent harvesters from generating income by fishing, and suspension timeframes generally coincide with the most lucrative times to fish.

DFO promotes compliance with the Fisheries Act and regulations through a combination of land, air, and sea patrols, as well as education and awareness activities. Fishing activity occurring without a DFO-issued licence, or not in compliance with conditions of licence, is subject to enforcement action.

Anyone who has information on suspected illegal fishing, purchasing, or selling, is encouraged us to contact us.

Additional multimedia

Aerial surveillance image showing 3 vessels on the water.
Image presented as evidence during trial.

Quick facts

  • Atlantic Halibut has become the most valuable species for groundfish licence holders in Nova Scotia over the past several years and accounted for 59% of the value of the groundfish fishery in DFO’s Maritimes Region in 2022.

  • DFO’s fishery officers enforce the Fisheries Act to conserve and protect fish and fish habitat. Obstructing officers from performing their duties, or failing to provide required information and documentation, are serious and potentially costly offences.

Associated links


Media Relations, Maritimes Region
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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