Province wants cash, house from banned commercial fisherman for alleged illegal fishing

VANCOUVER — The B.C. government is asking to seize a Gabriola Island home and more than $1.3 million in cash from a commercial fisherman who is banned from fishing until 2038.

In a petition filed on June 28 in B.C. Supreme Court, the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office says the cash and the home are proceeds of illegal fishing and money laundering.

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Named in the civil lawsuit are the commercial fisherman Scott Stanley Matthew Steer, and his spouse, Melissa Dawn Larocque, also known as Melissa Steer. Also named are Larocque’s mother, Diane Gail Butz, and several companies. The companies included Harbourside Marine, 1215419 B.C. Ltd., 1254691 B.C. Ltd., 913744 B.C. Ltd. (operating as Alaskan Moon Seafood), Seafood and Shore to Door Seafood Products.

The money is in a number of bank accounts in the names of Steer, Larocque and the companies, according to the civil forfeiture claim. The mortgaged Gabriola home at 1150 Chappel Place is valued at $622,000, according to B.C. Assessment Authority records.

Steer has a “prolific” history of illegal fishing violations on the B.C. coast dating back to 2010, alleges the forfeiture claim.

The owner of the Gabriola home is listed as Butz, but the civil forfeiture claim alleges that she is a nominee owner and that Steer and Larocque, or both of them, are the beneficial or true owners of the property.

“The Gabriola property is an instrument of crime as the purchase was made as a way to launder the money gained from the unlawful activity,” says the forfeiture claim.

None of the those named in the lawsuit have responded in court to the allegations.

While Larocque and Butz have not been charged with federal fisheries violations, Steer does face fisheries charges related to some of the activities outlined in the civil forfeiture suit.

According to the claim, Steer is under a prohibition order until 2038, under which he is not to apply for any new lease or licence under the Fisheries Act and cannot be on board any fishing vessel. He is also not to acquire any interest in any fishing vessel or licence and is not to own or possess fishing gear of any kind.

Larocque describes her employment as an esthetician and has never held a commercial fishing licence.

The lawsuit alleges Steer, Larocque and the companies “continue to engage in commercial fishing, possession of fishing gear, and the illegal capture and sale of fish.”

Steer has also violated Canada’s Immigration Act by employing Mexican nationals for sea cucumber fishing when the “foreign national” was not authorized to be employed to do so, alleged the forfeiture claim.

Illegal crab fishing is among the activities alleged in the forfeiture claim.

On March 2, 2020, federal Fisheries officers boarded a vessel in Vancouver harbour where they found Steer and two associates, the lawsuit says. The vessel had about 300 crabs on board and four commercial crab traps.

Four days later, a Nanaimo property, a flatdeck truck registered to one of the Steer-Larocque companies, and two fishing vessels, were searched, according to forfeiture claim. The search turned up a large amount of fishing gear, including for crab and sea cucumbers.

In May 2021, Steer was convicted of crab fishing in 2020, including for contravening his ban for being on a fishing vessel, possessing fishing gear, fishing without a licence, fishing during a closed time and possession of crab caught illegally, the lawsuit says.

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