DFO ramps up presence after angry confrontation

An increase in conservation and protection officers from the DFO in early August has caused some fishermen to call foul.

Following an incident on August 2 at the Canfisco Oceanview plant

Following an incident on August 2 at the Canfisco Oceanview plant

A substantial increase in conservation and protection officers from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in early August has caused some fishermen to call foul in Prince Rupert.

Stemming from an incident on Aug. 2, allegedly involving four to five fishermen and at least two DFO officers, a tense confrontation led the department to ramp up the presence of officers at the Canfisco Oceanview plant throughout the following eight to 10 days.

“[The officers] went out and they encountered a lot of non-compliance with some of the regulatory pieces in the same fishery that was open and the one we were concerned about was what we call ramping (seine net hauled aboard en masse, causing fish to be crushed) [versus] brailing their catch, using a smaller net to lift the fish out of the bigger seine net,” said Tom Hlavac, acting regional director for conservation and protection Pacific Region last week.

The incident allegedly involved some angry and agitated fishermen yelling at an officer who had boarded a vessel to inspect the boat for regulatory compliance (something the officers don’t need permission to do), but encountered resistance not by the vessel’s owner, but by other fishermen in the area.

After a heated exchange between the fishermen and an officer stationed nearby, the officers disengaged from the vessel. One of the officers looked frightened and aggressive, said Joy Thorkelson, northern representative for United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union (UFAWU-Unifor), who was at the scene by chance and said she tried to diffuse the situation.

“We stopped exerting our authority and we disengaged because we didn’t want to get hurt. When you’ve got several hostile fishermen yelling at you, it’s almost a schooling behaviour. It’s almost a mob mentality. It’s just fish, it’s not worth getting hurt for,” said Hlavac.

The DFO then delayed the opening of the gillnetting fishery because it brought in additional officers from the south coast and Haida Gwaii, something which also upset area fishermen.

At its peak on approximately Aug. 5, there were as many as 17 officers at the offloading location in Prince Rupert.

Hlavac suspected that a number of factors went into the fishermen’s frustrations last week, including constantly changing regulations from year to year over restrictive fishing methods and species of fish, particularly sockeye salmon and other salmon species, as well as allowing different user groups to have a chance at the fish down the coast.

The restrictions are in place to make sure that different geographic locations, as well as industry, community and First Nations groups are all able fish fairly. However, in a UFAWU-Unifor bulletin distributed July 29, the union took exception to DFO officials seizing non-retention sockeye and chum and charging fishermen for possessing some of the fish, some of which had been used as food fish for First Nations communities when fishermen discovered that the salmon had been dead in their bycatch.

“C and P (conservation and protection) is charging fishermen for having a small amount of bycatch by accident or for food reasons making fishermen into criminals,” read the bulletin.

But seine fleets have the tools to handle the new regulations, said Hlavac.

“I’m being told close to 66 per cent of the vessels were ramping, so it was a very important piece we want to see compliance with to have a sustainable fishery. That’s why we started doing some harder enforcement,” said the regional director, adding that seiners are capable of catching whole schools of fish, whereas sport fisherman, are only catching one at a time – a sore point for some fishermen who find it nonsensical to allow sport fishermen to have full bag limits on salmon while commercial fleets must release them, as outlined in the bulletin. Hlavac said it’s important to remember that sport fishermen catch fish one at a time and not in entire netting networks.

“We did see what I would call more minor violations, so failures in the hail-outs and hail-ins. Because we were a bit stricter, our tolerance for minor mistakes was a lot lower than it normally would be. We’re happy to issue warnings in a normal season to help fishermen,” said Hlavac.

“This is one of the first times we’ve forced people to be compliant in a long time.”

UFAWU-Unifor maintains in its bulletin that the current climate of releasing salmon for seine fleets is unsustainable.

“DFO now manages many systems so that escapement has to be met before any fishing can take place, leading to over-escapement and negative impacts on future generations of salmon,” it read.

Hlavac said he would be happy and open to dialogue on policy changes, including allowing a small quantity of sockeye to be kept accidentally by seine nets, but stated any changes would most likely have to take effect next season, if any were made, due to the decisions in a timely manner required behind the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan and bureaucratic red tape.

Currently, no non-retention salmon are allowed to be caught.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prince Rupert couple Alvin Tait and Loni Martin have postponed their wedding two times due to COVID-19 affecting the marriage rates in Prince Rupert. (Photo: supplied/L.Martin)
No marriages in Prince Rupert in 2021 so far

Weddings down 23.9% in P.R. since COVID-19 with B.C. wedding industry loss at $158 million

Three North Coast organizations are granted funding to promote multiculturalism and support anti-racism, Jennifer Rice MLA announced on April 8. Conrad Elementary School students recognized the first Black Shirt Day on January 15, 2021, to advocate for anti-racism. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
North Coast organizations to benefit from anti-racism funding

$944,000 granted in provincial funding to aid multiculturalism

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

Heavy wet snow fell in Prince Rupert on April 7, making the dock a Rushbrook slippery for vehicles. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Three back-to-back weather systems with snow down to sea level

April showers are supposed to bring May flowers — but not in Prince Rupert.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed on April 4, according to a statement from police. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police name victim following city’s fourth homicide of 2021

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed Sunday in the Downtown Eastside

A man wears a face mask past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Calls for stricter action in B.C. as COVID-19 variants projected to climb

Jens von Bergmann says the province has taken a ‘wait and see’ approach when early action is needed

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning says the players who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 are recovering and the team still intends to play a 56-game season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks players ‘mostly on the other side’ of COVID outbreak: general manager

The athletes have had a “whole range” of COVID-19 symptoms, said team physician Dr. Jim Bovard, but no one has needed to be hospitalized

Police are investigating after a man was shot Thursday, April 8 while sitting in a car in Vancouver. (Black Press files)
Man shot in Vancouver while sitting in a parked car: police

The victim is currently in critical condition. Police say no arrests have been made.

Teachers from SD42 and other districts in the Lower Mainland flocked to Surrey on Tuesday in the hopes of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. (Sheelagh Brothers/Twitter)
Don’t line up for vaccines unless asked to come, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

Social media post shows teachers lining up outside of Surrey clinic for leftover doses

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP is seeking public tips regarding a break-in that left multiple people injured in Vernon Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Cariboo teacher charged in child exploitation case

Charge laid against teacher at Peter Skene Ogden

Most Read