Posted by: The ocean update | April 28, 2015

Illegal Atlantic halibut fishing generates CAD 1 million in fines (Canada)

Illegal fishing. (Photo Credit : Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Illegal fishing. (Photo Credit : Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is taking a more intelligence-led and longer-term approach to conserving and protecting fishery resources in Atlantic Canada, and its efforts are paying off for the Atlantic halibut fishery in particular.

DFO’s increased focus on the monitoring of catch and landings of Atlantic halibut has resulted in a long line of convictions, totaling over CAD 1 million (USD 823,220) in fines and forfeitures over the last five years. Atlantic halibut is an important resource and great efforts have been made to rebuild this fishery over the last decade. In an effort to identify and reduce threats to this fishery, the Department has modernized its approach to conservation and protection. This includes information collection, longer-term analysis and comprehensive investigations that have resulted in more substantial fines and consequently greater deterrence to illegal fishing activities.

Fishery officers in Atlantic Canada undertook a comprehensive, multi-year investigation into this fishery to identify relationships between players in the fishery and charge the key culprits for illegal fishing, possession and sale of Atlantic halibut. Fishery officers carried out extensive monitoring and surveillance operations, sometimes covert in nature, and gathered forensic intelligence from multiple sources, such as logbooks, Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) reports and processor files and retail operation records. Since the start of this major investigation in 2010, fishery officers’ efforts have led to 164 convictions across Atlantic Canada, with fines totaling CAD 1,178,000 (USD 969,755) so far.

The Atlantic halibut resource in Atlantic Canada is considered healthy with both the coastal stock and the Gulf of St. Lawrence stock being widely distributed. Its value has also increased significantly in recent years (sometimes as high as CAD 6 [USD 4.9] per pound).

This fishery was one of the first fisheries to achieve Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.

Conservation and Protection officers supplemented traditional monitoring, control and surveillance measures at the fish buyer level with more aggressive, forensic intelligence and documentary investigations to uncover collusion between buyers and fishers to illegally process halibut landed in excess of set quotas.

“Our Government is committed to ensuring sustainable and viable fisheries for generations to come. The enforcement activities our fishery officers undertake play an absolutely critical role in our efforts to ensure the long-term sustainability and health of the Atlantic halibut fishery. I am very proud of the work they continue to do every day to prevent illegal fishing,” said Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Gail Shea.

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