Shellfish harvesting complaints on the rise, but DFO finds few violations

Summer vacations and warm weather mean more people on Sunshine Coast beaches and docks, and more complaints about alleged violations of fishing, clamming and crabbing regulations.

Matt Conley, field supervisor with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) Powell River office, said once again this season officials are seeing a spike in calls, especially from the Sechelt area.

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“We’ve had a large volume of calls from the Sechelt area for the past few years and it’s getting busier and busier,” he said, adding that most of the complaints are about activity at the Davis Bay Wharf, Porpoise Bay and, more recently this season, the pier at Friendship Park in downtown Sechelt.

Conley said although DFO makes regular checks in Davis Bay, a popular spot for crabbing, they don’t find many people breaking the rules.

“The public sees a large amount of folks on the dock and they call with assumptions that there’s violations. We do check that dock regularly and we have very few violations,” he said.

In Porpoise Bay, officials tend to find more people taking over the shellfish limit, and Conley said several $1,000 tickets have been handed out so far this summer by both the Conservation Officer Service and DFO.

Conley said DFO also tries to respond quickly to reports of people harvesting in areas closed because of contamination.

“We make sure that we attend or we get one of the other agencies to help us out, such as conservation officers or RCMP,” he said. “Public health and safety is our number one priority, and we do get a lot of calls from the Sechelt area because there’s a lot of contamination, unfortunately.”

DFO is also asking people to keep safety in mind if they see a suspected violation and want to make a report – a message the agency worked to reinforce last season as well.

“We wouldn’t want people to jeopardize their safety, we’d much prefer they call the 1-800 number (1-800-465-4336) and we will deal with it,” Conley said. “Take photos if it’s safe, get a licence plate number if it’s safe, but don’t put yourself in harm’s way… It’s not worth it over a few crabs.”

Conley and Sunshine Coast RCMP told Coast Reproter they weren’t aware of any situations that have escalated into altercations over alleged illegal harvesting.

The District of Sechelt, meanwhile, has been facing questions about what it can do about fishing and crabbing on the Trail Bay Pier and at the Davis Bay Wharf, including suggestions that they close them to anglers and crabbers.

In a recent addition to the “For the Record” page on the district website and posts on its Facebook page, district officials said enforcing fishing regulations is outside its jurisdiction, but encouraged people to file reports with DFO.

On the issue of sharing space at the Davis Bay Wharf, where areas are clearly marked for either fishing or swimming, the district said its bylaw officers would investigate complaints of people fishing in the areas designated for swimmers.

“They have some scheduled patrols of this area, but most enforcement matters are complaints-based,” the post said. “Please call the bylaw department right away if you notice any issues with sharing the wharf.”

More information on shellfish harvesting and crabbing regulations and closures can be found through the DFO’s online mapping tool:

https://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/shellfish-mollusques/cssp-map-eng.htm

 

 

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