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Fish harvesters found guilty in Powell River Provincial Court

Fishers face heavy fines after investigation initiated in August by member of the public.
For violating the Fisheries Act, three fishers who took rockfish and lingcod illegally at Diver’s Rock Regional Park near Lund faced heavy fines and prohibitions in Powell River Provincial Court [above].

Three fishers were handed significant fines in BC Provincial Court for fisheries violations in the Lund area.

According to a media release from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, on November 16, in Powell River Provincial Court, the 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.

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 Diver’s Rock Regional Park. Fishery officers Matt Conley and Ben Rahier from the Powell River conservation and protection 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, the release stated. Once detained, the men initially refused to engage with the officers, according to the release.

In an interview with the Peak, Conley, field supervisor of the Georgia Basin North Detachment, said the observe, record, report line is how the officers frequently find out about infractions.

“When officer Rahier and myself arrived, there was a group of individuals at Diver’s Rock park out Lund way,” said Conley. “As soon as we got out of the truck, there was frantic activity below and the group started running. We ran down and tried to get the group to come to us. They proceeded to hide their fish and took off.

“We went different ways down the beach and were able to find some of the fish that were hidden under the rocks. They were in possession of an overlimit of rockfish that they caught fishing from shore.”

The release stated that provincial court judge Lisa 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 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.

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 one 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 release stated.

Conley told the Peak that the fishers were charged with a variety of offences, including obstruction for hiding the fish and being overlimit; they had an undersized ling cod and were also charged with illegal possession.

“It was a very significant ruling,” added Conley. “The judges are starting to take these cases more seriously. That’s a substantial fine. The one-year fishing prohibition is also nice to see. I think it’s going to change the message out there.”

Conley said rockfish are easily overfished because they don’t migrate like some species do.

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 [email protected].

Conley said the reason why this file happened is because a good citizen called it in.

“We all get it on our phones instantly,” he added, “and we are able to attend right away.”