DFO vows to have eyes on anglers this summer

Recreational anglers beware: DFO is watching you.

Derek Chung, commander of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans whale protection unit, said enforcement agencies will continue to be out in force this summer to ensure people are abiding by the rules laid down in the Fisheries Act and B.C. Sportfishing regulations.

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“We try [to get out on the water] as much as we can,” said Chung, noting a recent co-ordinated enforcement effort resulted in several investigations and dozens of warning tickets being issued.

The two-day blitz, carried out in early July between Gabriola Island and Race Rocks by the federal department, involved the co-ordinated efforts of the RCMP, Canada Border Services, the Coast Guard and their U.S. counterparts.

About 76 vessels were checked and 187 anglers received warnings and tickets for a variety of offences.

Chung said the number of infractions is typical of any busy day on the water.

He said the problem isn’t necessarily people trying to get away with things, but a lack of education and understanding of the regulations.

“A lot of it comes down to not being informed users of the resource,” he said. “People are engaged in recreational fishing without knowing what they are getting themselves into.”

Anglers were ticketed for offences ranging from retention of wild coho to fishing in restricted zones, taking more than the limit of crab and rockfish, using barbed hooks for salmon and not having fishing licences.

While warnings were issued for some of the violations, investigations will be conducted into the more serious infractions — typically multiple infractions noted in one vessel. Those investigations could result in fines and court appearances.

Chung said anyone heading out to fish should familiarize themselves with what areas are off limits to boaters and what species or sizes cannot be taken as the department tries to help improve stocks.

The two-day sweep in July focused on fishery closures for the protection of salmon and rockfish stocks, as well as patrolling areas designated as sanctuary zones or conservation areas, and beaches closed to bivalve harvest.

The operation involved five vessels, a land-based platform and a dedicated aircraft from fisheries’ aerial surveillance and enforcement program, and Chung said it won’t be the last co-ordinated effort this season in the Salish Sea.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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