Snagged seafood company forfeits catch

Finest At Sea has forfeited the proceeds from a $14,000 halibut catch after pleading guilty to contravening the conditions of a commercial fishing licence in March 2012.

Victoria provincial court Judge Brian Neal this week accepted a joint sentencing submission by federal prosecutor Larry Reynolds and Robert James, the lawyer representing the Victoria-based seafood company, to give the forfeited money to the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

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Court heard the ill health of company owner Bob Fraumeni and a skipper’s inexperience contributed to the company’s failure to apply for a special amendment to the halibut licence on a trip on the Nordic Spirit on March 18 to 20, 2012.

“FAS Seafoods had a proper halibut licence. However, because there is a conservation problem with rockfish, area 4B requires a special amendment to that licence,” Reynolds said. “The reason is, when you’re trying to catch halibut, you often catch rockfish, which are having a problem trying to sustain their numbers.”

Area 4B extends from the southern tip of Vancouver Island to the northern tip, between the Island and the mainland, he said.

As a conservation practice, Fisheries and Oceans needs to know who’s fishing and that the correct number of licences have been issued to understand what’s happening with the fishery, Reynolds said.

In this case, Fraumeni was ill. Someone skippered the trip for him and the company did not obtain an amendment to allow the fishing trip to take place within the conservation protected area.

Halibut was caught and a fisheries officer seized the catch valued at $14,164.10.

Finest at Sea has a good record in this area, James said.

“There is no evidence the company was trying to be surreptitious. The catch was properly logged and there was no intention to deceive.”

But Fraumeni had “frightening health circumstances,” which led to confusion for two months, said James. In the meantime, the company has taken steps to make sure it won’t happen again, he said.

“There was a very modest catch of rockfish. This was not a situation where there was a large setback in terms of conservation efforts, James said.

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