Obstructing DFO fishery officers performing their duty, or failing to provide required documentation, are serious and potentially costly offences

February 22, 2022 at 1:21 pm  Federal, Politics

February 22, 2022

North Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Richmond, B.C. – Several Provincial Court cases in the last two years highlight the potential costs, both financial and legal, of obstructing fishery officers. Conservation and Protection officers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) have a wide range of powers to enforce the rules and regulations set out in Canada’s Fisheries Act. Failure to comply has led to charges and fines for individuals and companies.

In the most recent case on December 14, 2021, Christopher Schill pleaded guilty to obstruction charges in North Vancouver Provincial Court and was fined $5,000. Mr. Schill, along with fellow crew member Sammy Williams and  vessel skipper Scott Steer, was arrested on March 1, 2020 in an investigation and a series of subsequent trials that resulted in a lifetime fishing ban for Mr. Steer (B.C. Supreme Court orders a lifetime fishing ban for repeat offender Scott Steer  – Canada.ca) and penalties for the crew. In addition to the fine, Mr. Schill has been ordered to have no contact with either Mr. Steer, or Mr. Williams, for the next three years.

On November 17, 2021, in Prince Rupert Provincial Court, Bandstra Transportation Systems, Ltd. pleaded guilty to a violation of Canada’s Fisheries Act for failing to comply with a demand for records received from a fishery officer. The Honourable Judge Richard R. Blaskovits ordered the Company, which transports fish, among other goods, to pay a fine of $8,750.

On March 4, 2021, Richmond seafood processing company, Tenshi Seafood Limited, its co-owner, & a supplier were found guilty of obstruction in Richmond Provincial Court. The fines for all three entities amounted to $110,000 in total.

On August 31, 2020, in Prince Rupert Provincial Court, a long-time commercial vessel master was found guilty of obstructing and specifically hindering a fishery officer. The fine was $10,000 and the Honourable Judge C.A. Struyk commented that “Commercial fishers, simply, must fully cooperate and ensure fisheries officers are allowed to conduct inspections. …the court will not take lightly offences that involve fisheries officers doing their jobs and exercising their legal powers under the Fisheries Act.”                   

Fishing is a highly regulated activity that requires a significant degree of reporting. Information from the many parties who are involved in the catching, processing, and transporting of fish to the final consumer contributes to traceability. This is a vital component for sustainable stock management, food safety, Canada’s treaty obligations and international reputation, and for DFO’s ability to carry out its responsibilities.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a mandate to protect and conserve marine resources and to prosecute offenders under the Fisheries Act. It ensures and promotes compliance with the Act and other laws and regulations through a combination of land, air, and sea patrols, as well as education and awareness activities.

Anyone with information about suspected violations of Canada’s Fisheries Act and regulations can call the Fisheries and Oceans Canada toll-free violation reporting line at 1-800-465-4336, or e-mail the details to DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.

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