Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers from Powell River, Squamish, Nanaimo and the Lower Mainland converged on the Sunshine Coast late last week in an effort to crack down on people violating harvesting rules.
Fisheries officer Monte Bromley, who’s based in Nanaimo, said two teams of DFO officers were in the area July 25 to July 29, focusing mainly on Porpoise Bay and the waters around Sechelt. The Coast Guard patrol boat M. Charles was also in the area.
There were at least 28 violation tickets issued, mainly to recreational harvesters for taking clams and oysters from closed areas or exceeding the limit, and to anglers for not following the rockfish harvesting regulations. Bromley estimates the fines from those tickets totalled around $14,000.
He said rockfish over-catching is becoming such a problem around the Sunshine Coast that DFO may have to look at expanding conservation areas and lowering limits. Right now the limit is one per day.
Many of the shellfish violations were in Porpoise Bay, where much of the shoreline is under a sanitary closure except for the beach directly in front of the provincial park. Bromley said most of the people DFO officers encountered harvesting clams within the park boundaries were sticking to their limits and to the open areas.
Outside the park boundary it was a different story.
“The limit per day for littleneck and manila clams is 75 and some people had double that in one day digging,” Bromley said, adding that it’s not only a violation of the rules but a health hazard to be taking shellfish from the closed areas.
“This kind of pressure we’re seeing on shellfish alone seems to be expanding on the Sunshine Coast. There seems to be more spillover from Vancouver,” Bromley said. “Most of the violations that we encountered and tickets that we issued were to non-locals … particularly Vancouver or people from outside Canada accompanying people from Vancouver, so a lot of pressure is coming from other areas into the Sunshine Coast area this time of year.”
Bromley also said DFO has been getting a lot of tips about suspected illegal harvesting through the Observe, Record, Report line at 1-800-465-4336. Some people have even been reporting details like vehicle licence plate numbers. “We encourage the public to safely do that, but not to intervene,” he said.
DFO said the recent blitz is part of an effort to deploy officers to areas where there’s an immediate concern, and Bromley said he expects there will be others, but he can’t say when. “We will be doing further blitzes and joint agency and joint detachment patrols in the Sechelt area, because that area is demanding more attention.”