Contrary to some reports, there is more to the assignment of a new Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) officer to the Powell River detachment than clamping down on over-harvesting of shellfish stocks along the Sunshine Coast.
The appointment brings the total to three officers who will work from the Powell River office.
“It's managing the detachment as a whole,” said Fisheries and Oceans acting area chief Mandy Ludlow, stepping back from an earlier statement from a DFO officer who said the additional officer was being brought in because of the pressure on shellfish by tourists.
“There are many complex fisheries issues among a variety of fisheries, including but not limited to shellfish harvesting,” said Ludlow. “A lot of fisheries on the Sunshine Coast need managing.”
Ludlow said the placement is not a response to complaints about illegal practices in the shellfish fisheries. DFO has been working to place a third conservation officer in Powell River for some time, she added.
“We've wanted to add to the Powell River office because it's been a two-person office for a very long time,” said Ludlow. “Two-person offices are hard to manage.”
The Powell River DFO office is responsible for the entire Sunshine Coast. An office in Pender Harbour was closed in 2015, which put additional strain on the Powell River branch.
A recent high profile task force of fisheries officers from Powell River, Squamish, Nanaimo and the Lower Mainland descended on Porpoise Bay and Sechelt waters for five days, issuing approximately 30 tickets worth a total of $14,000 for illegal harvesting of clams, oysters and rockfish.
Rockfish is of particular concern for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
“Complaints regarding overlimiting of recreational rockfish in the Sunshine Coast area are being closely monitored,” said Ludlow. People should not confront fishers they suspect of exceeding daily quotas or illegal fishing because of the risk of danger to themselves, she added.
“Many people don't understand that a lot of people who are involved in illegal fishing are also involved in other aspects of crime, including organized crime,” said Ludlow, adding that the criminal element is one reason why fisheries officers carry firearms.
Anyone encountering suspected illegal fishing activity is advised to observe, record and report with a call to the DFO hotline at 1.800.465.4336.