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Prawner hit with $250K fine for fishing over protected glass sponge reef

A prawn fisher must pay a quarter-million-dollar fine, after deliberately setting traps in a globally unique marine refuge.

Last month, the master of commercial vessel Darkstar was fined by the court and ordered to forfeit $80,000 worth of prawning gear. He was caught by Fisheries and Oceans Canada officers in July 2020. His prawn traps had been set illegally in the Strait of Georgia Glass Sponge Reef Marine refuge near Sechelt.

During sentencing on January 31, a member of the Sechelt nation read an impact statement outlining the nation’s concerns about illegal fishing on the reef. A DFO scientist also gave evidence of the harm done to the reef by illegal fishing.

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The vessel master pled guilty to seven of the 13 violations, and the Court declared him guilty of the other six violations, particularly poor record-keeping, setting traps too early, and using non-compliant buoys. A total of 553 commercial prawn traps and 450 lbs. of live prawns were seized and forfeited to the Crown.

BC’s glass sponges are ancient organisms, and part of a globally unique ecosystem that provides important habitat for sea life, including prawns, similar to coral reefs. They were only first discovered in 1987, after more than half of them had been destroyed by fishing practices.

 

Prawning and sponges

  • Commercial prawning setting and hauling of prawn and shrimp gear is permitted only between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.
  • British Columbia’s ancient glass sponge reefs are a globally unique ecosystem that are areas of high biodiversity and provide important habitat for many marine animals, including spot prawns, rockfish, herring, halibut and sharks.
  • Glass sponges are remarkable filter-feeding marine animals that live their long lives in deep water. They are slow to reproduce, with skeletons made of nearly pure glass (silica). They are extremely fragile and easily damaged by any human caused disturbance.
  • The Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound Conservation Initiative implements measures to protect and conserve glass sponge reefs on British Columbia’s south coast.
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