Two men have been sentenced to pay fines after an investigation that caught them selling $4,000 worth of illegally harvested Dungeness crab from Howe Sound.
Michael Sparrow and Bruce Grant each pled guilty to multiple charges connected to crab poaching in 2014.
In March of that year, the two men were arrested after an extensive sting operation by Fisheries and Oceans Canada [then the Department of Fisheries and Oceans], which caught them fishing out-of-season near Keats Island and selling the illegally-caught crabs.
The commercial fishery is closed from November to June to allow the crabs stocks to recover.
Also, the area is closed all year to commercial crab fishing because of high levels of dioxin, a pollutant that can be toxic to the human liver.
“Both the health of the fishery and of the public were put at risk by these actions,” wrote Judge Laura Bakan in her decision, noting that poaching can have serious effects on the crab population.
The two men sold their illegally caught crab to Yat Ming Seafood Market on Kingsway in Vancouver. Five cages of the Dungeness crab were delivered and sold for $4,019 to the owner of the market in March of 2014, according to court documents.
After his arrest, Sparrow told the officer the location of 85 different unmarked crab traps in the area. A total of over 1,200 crabs were released from the traps, which were illegally secured with zip-ties.
During the sentencing, Sparrow apologized for his actions, according to court documents, and said a low salmon yield contributed to his financial motivation.
A Gladue report submitted at the sentencing notes that Sparrow comes from a long line of Musqueam fishermen and supports his three children and wife on his income. His parents were also affected by residential schools.
Sparrow collects $2,200 a month in employment insurance when the fishery is closed, according to court documents.
He has three previous convictions from 2000 and 2005 for minor violations of the Fishing Act.
The maximum punishment for the 2014 charges would be $100,000 for each offence and up to a year in jail.
Instead, the Crown asked the judge for fines of $27,820 from Sparrow and $5,000 for Grant, but did not ask for seizure of their boat or truck or fishing prohibitions.
In her decision, based on the guilty pleas and apologies from Sparrow, the judge ordered him to pay $18,820 over five years and Grant to pay $2,500.
“[Sparrow] said he has not been back to the area since and acknowledges that he made a big mistake fishing there,” wrote Bakan.
“He did tell the truth, and I accept his sincerity that he will not come before the courts again for these sort of offences.“
Sparrow must also complete 50 hours of community service related to water conservation in Howe Sound. Both men can continue to fish but must keep Fisheries and Oceans informed of their activities.
Yat Ming Enterprises Ltd. was previously fined $72,000.