Sechelt property owner fined $70,000 for contravening the federal Fisheries Act

News release

July 10, 2024

Sechelt, BC – On June 11, 2024, the Honourable Judge Steven Merrick of the Sechelt Provincial Court fined George Winkler $70,000 for offences under Canada’s Fisheries Act. Mr. Winkler pleaded guilty in October 2023 to violating the fish and fish habitat protection provisions of the Act by undertaking work that resulted in the death of fish and the destruction of fish habitat.

The case stems from November 22, 2021, when Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) received information about an excavator operating within Stephens Creek on a property at Lower Road in Roberts Creek, Sechelt. The excavator was dredging out the stream bed of Stephens Creek and using the materials to build up the banks on either side of the creek.

On November 26, 2021, DFO fishery officers and biologists inspected the site and collected salmon eggs lying on and buried within the dredged material. Subsequent analysis confirmed that the dead eggs were pink or chum salmon. The unauthorized dredging work also resulted in the harmful alteration, disruption and destruction of 38.7 m2 of aquatic habitat.

An environmental impact statement submitted to the Provincial Court outlined that Mr. Winkler’s actions could have completely eliminated the 2021 salmon run from Stephens Creek, which was already seeing some of the lowest historical returns of chum salmon to the mainland Inlets and Strait of Georgia. His actions will also likely adversely affect salmon production in Stephens Creek for years to come.

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.

Additional multimedia

Submitted as evidence during the trial.
Submitted as evidence during the trial.

Quick facts

  • Stephens Creek feeds directly into the Strait of Georgia and its chum salmon contribute to the inside southern chum stock. In any year, if the stock in the Strait of Georgia does not reach the critical abundance threshold of 1 million established in the Pacific Salmon Treaty between Canada and the US, then mixed stock fisheries in Johnstone Strait, which feeds into the Strait of Georgia, are to be suspended.

  • In May 2020, Mr. Winkler was issued a warning by DFO fishery officers for conducting similar activities, with the same excavator, in the same location, and this was an aggravating factor considered by Judge Merrick.

  • Fishery officers work closely with biologists from DFO’s Fish and Fish Habitat Protection Program to ensure any work undertaken near water complies with the fish and fish habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act.

Associated links

Contacts

Media Relations, Pacific Region
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
604-666-1746
DFO.RPACCommunicationsR.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
613-990-7537
Media.xncr@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

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