Nathan George was pleased to see some serious action being taken.
But George, the acting manager for the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation fisheries department, believes much more still needs to be done to curtail illegal activity in the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation.
George had mixed reactions following a press release issued last week that detailed information about three American residents who received fines, forfeitures and fees totaling more than $70,000 for an incident that dates back to September 2019.
“I think it is very important,” George said of the penalties which were assessed by the Campbell River Provincial Court. “It plays a big part in helping conserve the wild stocks and show there are consequences for actions taken outside of the guidelines given for the season.”
The three individuals who plead guilty to various violations of Canada’s Fisheries Act are residents of the state of Washington. They are Bradley Wogalmott, Geoffrey Hoover and Jonathan Magee.
The trio faced various charges stemming back from an investigation that was conducted jointly by the RCMP and Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Gold River, resulting in a seizure on Sept. 11, 2019.
Officials from the Nootka Sound detachment for the RCMP were alerted that the three men potentially violated the Fisheries Act.
The American men were stopped by RCMP officers who discovered the anglers had a substantial amount of fish that were not properly recorded based on the conditions of their recreational licenses.
Campbell River officials from Fisheries and Oceans Canada took charge of the investigation.
Greg Askey, a fishery officer who works in Campbell River, detailed the seriousness of this case calling it “the most significant sport violation I have seen in my over 20-year career.”
The American anglers had plead guilty to their charges this past February. They were sentenced on Apr. 12.
Wogalmott received the stiffest penalties.
For starters, he was fined $15,000 and was prohibited from fishing anywhere in Canada, or holding a fishing license in the country, for 10 years.
The court also ordered him to forfeit all of the fishing equipment, valued at more than $6,000, that was seized on the vessel used during the illegal fishing activities. Plus, he also forfeited a pair of outboard engines which cost about $32,500.
Wogalmott was also responsible for paying about $10,000 to cover the storage and transport fees for the seized vessel.
Besides forfeiting his fishing equipment that was seized, Hoover was given a $5,000 fine. And he received a two-year ban from fishing or holding a fishing license in Canada.
Like Hoover, Magee was also fined $5,000 and had his equipment seized. Hoover was given a ban lasting one year, preventing him from fishing or holding a fishing license in Canada.
Besides seizing a 30-foot fishing vessel and large quantity of fishing gear, officials also found substantial amounts of Chinook salmon, ling cod and rockfish on the boat.
George, who has worked off and on in the fisheries industry as a laborer and technician since the late 1990s, believes others should also be brought to justice.
“No, I don’t think enough is being done,” said George, who has been the acting manager of his First Nation’s fisheries department for slightly more than a year now. “There are still reports of illegal activity in our territory.”
One of the mandates for Fisheries and Oceans Canada is to protect and conserve marine resources. It also aims to prosecute offenders under the Fisheries Act.
Compliance of the act occurs via a combination of sea, air and land patrols.
Members of the public who wish to report on any possible fishing violations are encouraged to call the toll free number 1-800-465-4336 or send details to the email address DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca