Canada issues nearly CAD 300,000 in fines for undersized Dungeness crab, illegal prawn fishing

An undersized Dungeness crab found in the facility of Tenshi Seafood.
An undersized Dungeness crab found in the facility of Tenshi Seafood | Photo courtesy of Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans
4 Min

A seafood processing firm and a commercial fisherman have received combined fines of CAD 290,000 for illegal activities.

The vessel master of the Darkstar, fishing out of Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada, was sentenced to pay a fine of CAD 250,000 (USD 185,000, EUR 170,600) and forfeit approximately CAD 80,000 (USD 59,200, EUR 54,600) worth of gear after being found guilty of 13 violations of Canada’s Fisheries Act for illegally setting prawn traps in the Strait of Georgia Glass Sponge Reef Marine Refuges, a protected closed to prawn fishing.

The individual, who was not named in a Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans press release, was found guilty in May 2023 for offenses committed between July and September 2020. In April 2022, he pleaded guilty to seven offenses and a judge found him guilty of an additional six crimes, including hauling gear prior to 7 a.m., failing to keep an accurate logbook, failing to provide records in the required time, and having noncompliant buoys.

“British Columbia's ancient glass sponge reefs are a globally unique ecosystem that are areas of high biodiversity and provide important habitat for many marine animals, including spot prawns, rockfish, herring, halibut and sharks,” DFO said in a release. “Glass sponges are remarkable filter-feeding marine animals that live their long lives in deep water. They are slow to reproduce, with skeletons made of nearly pure glass (silica). They are extremely fragile and easily damaged by any human caused disturbance. The Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound Conservation Initiative implements measures to protect and conserve glass sponge reefs on British Columbia's south coast.”

On 20 February 2024, DFO also announced a routine inspection of commercial seafood processing plants in January 2023 had discovered undersized Dungeness crab at Tenshi Seafood Limited in Richmond, British Columbia.

As a result, the company was fined CAD 40,000 (USD 29,600, EUR 27,300), a higher amount than is typical due to the fact that this is the second significant infraction committed by Tenshi Seafood, which was also fined CAD 75,000 (USD 55,500, EUR 51,200)  in January 2020 for obstruction of a DFO investigation.

“The harvest of undersized crab is the largest threat to conservation of Dungeness crab stocks, which is a traditional food source for Indigenous communities and core to the livelihood of commercial crab harvesters. Dungeness crab is also a significant economic benefit to coastal communities; specifically, the recreational fishery industry and tourism,” DFO said. “The significant fine underscores the seriousness of violating fishing rules and regulations under Canada's Fisheries Act intended to protect Canada's economic sovereignty and preserve at-risk fish populations. Size limits are used as the primary conservation measure in all these crab fisheries. In British Columbia, the size limit for male Dungeness crab is 165 millimeters across the maximum breadth of the carapace. Females may not be retained. The protection of females and a significant portion of the mature males in Dungeness crab populations ensure that harvestable stocks can be sustained.”    

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