When the Harper government removed fisheries officers from the Lower Sunshine several years ago, consolidating them in Powell River, this section of coastline was left wide open to depredation. Anecdotal reports followed of “campers” taking massive hauls of clams and oysters from local beaches and poachers in boats moored offshore loading up with Dungeness crab. The area’s close proximity to the Lower Mainland, coupled with near-zero enforcement capabilities, has made it a prime destination for exactly this sort of skulduggery – a poacher’s paradise.
Last year, residents in the Elphinstone area got so fed up after seeing a boat regularly plying the waters between Gibsons and Roberts Creek that they posted “Poacher Alert” notices in the area, complete with a photo of the suspect vessel. The resulting tips to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) led to the arrest of three men and the seizure of a boat with approximately 88 crab traps. The first string of traps seized after one night of fishing contained an estimated 400 crabs worth $4,000.
The local Sports Fishing Advisory Committee has been calling on Ottawa for years to remedy the situation, and last week they got a big boost from Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, the Liberal MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.
In a March 22 letter to federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc, Goldsmith-Jones described the cut as “devastating” and said the absence of enforcement by DFO is causing serious concern and frustration for the community. She told LeBlanc that fisheries officers, when they had been stationed in Pender Harbour, responded to calls in Sechelt and Gibsons within an hour; now it can take up to four hours to get to Sechelt. “Mostly, response is simply not available.”
Poaching, said Goldsmith-Jones, is going undetected “and has gotten so bad that in some areas there is barely any crab left.” She ends by urging LeBlanc to restore a fisheries officer position in Pender Harbour as part of the “significant investments” DFO is making in ocean protection.
It’s good to see our member of Parliament take such a strong stand on the issue. Anyone else who is concerned about this outrageous gap in fisheries enforcement – and the impact it’s having on our shellfish stocks – should consider getting behind her and sending a letter of their own to LeBlanc at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s time he heard loud and clear that we’re tired of being a poacher’s paradise.
Original article: http://bit.ly/2F4kJev