A multi-jurisdictional effort in Boundary Bay near White Rock has led to the seizure of 337 illegally set commercial crab traps and the return of a “large number” of crab and fish to the ocean.
The five-day operation – which ran Jan. 20, 21, 25 and Feb. 1-2 – included fishery officers from Langley and Richmond, as well as members of the Vancouver-based Whale Protection Unit and the Canadian Coast Guard, a news release from Fisheries and Oceans Canada stated.
According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the effort was the first time that the Coast Guard’s hovercraft from the Sea Island base was used in this type of operation.
The investigation is ongoing and charges may follow, with the release noting that “fishery officers will attempt to identify seized traps and gear and investigate further to identify the perpetrators.”
Illegal trapping operations, or “ghost fishing” violations include “a lack of proper floats identifying the location of gear; a lack of proper markings or tags on floats and crab traps; fishing more than the allotted amount of gear; fishing traps without escape mechanisms or rot cord to enable escape mechanisms should the gear ever become lost; and fishing in closed or prohibited areas” such as U.S. waters.
“These (ghost) traps can also become buried in the mud over time and so are more difficult or impossible to retrieve. The illegal traps are disposed of by destruction or, if there is value, they are sold through government auction.”
This month’s operation is the second major seizure of illegal crab traps in Boundary Bay in recent months. Last September, a joint operation between Canadian and U.S. officials led to Canadian fishing gear being seized in U.S. waters; four commercial crab vessels were targeted in the operation and more than 300 commercial traps and related gear were seized.