A commercial crab fisherman has been fined $15,000 for harvesting Dungeness crab in a closed area off Haida Gwaii two years ago.
Van Tan Le, skipper of the commercial crabbing vessel Vitamin Sea VI, pleaded guiltily to violating the Fisheries Act on April 10 of this year. The charges arise from Le having set more than 49 crab traps inside soft-shell management area 10—Mcintyre Bay closure area, north of Masset. A routine audit of the vessel’s logbook and electronic monitoring data later revealed possible fishing violations, which triggered a Fisheries and Oceans investigation in the summer of 2015.
In Prince Rupert court Judge Herman Seidemann III ordered $14,000 of the total fine to be used for fisheries preservation and conservation projects in and around Haida Gwaii and the Hecate Strait.
In a press release, the DFO said they considered the offence extremely serious, as fishing during the closure could have detrimental impacts on commercial, First Nations and recreational crab stocks.
“Protecting its crab populations, particularly during their vulnerable soft-shell time, is increasingly important for long-term conservation and viable fishery reasons. Moreover, this unaccounted for pressure, particularly during its soft-shell closure, contributes to continued low crab abundances and threatens fishing viability for this area.”
Commercial catches in McIntyre Bay have been below historic averages for several years.