Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers is asking the federal fisheries minister to reopen the Department of Fisheries and Oceans field office in Pender Harbour and increase “enforcement of poaching activities” on the Sunshine Coast.
“Poaching of sea life is a serious concern within the District of Sechelt and across the Sunshine Coast. This year we received many reports that poaching is increasing in terms of the number of poachers, as well as the volume of illegal seafood they are taking,” Siegers said in a letter to Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.
Siegers’ letter also asks for increased fines for illegal fishing, and better education on fisheries regulations and enforcement procedures.
“We also understand that many of our citizens are misinformed about fishing regulations and enforcement processes and may be reporting suspected poachers erroneously,” she wrote. “Restoring staff and reopening the local office will provide the opportunity for increased education for the public, as well as the opportunity to increase enforcement.”
The two fisheries officers who had been based in Madeira Park were moved to field offices in Nanaimo and Powell River in 2012.
A copy of the letter was released at the Sept. 4 council meeting, along with a request from an area resident, one of several the district says it has received, calling for access to the wharf at Davis Bay and the pier at Friendship Park to be restricted and crabbing to be banned outright in Davis Bay.
Councillors said they aren’t willing to go that far.
“Being able to fish, being able to catch crab, that’s part of the Sunshine Coast lifestyle and not everyone can have a boat to do that, so this provides an opportunity for a lot of people to experience that and it’s something that I don’t want to prohibit,” said Coun. Matt Mclean.
“I have no interest in shutting things down or restricting access… I think the general public needs to learn to play nice,” added Coun. Eric Scott.
At their meeting the night before, councillors in Gibsons, who were copied on the letter to Wilkinson, offered their endorsement and voted to back it up with a similar letter from Mayor Bill Beamish, who thanked Siegers for her leadership on the issue.
Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors were also sent copies.
After the SCRD sent a similar letter last spring, to support MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones’ call to then fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc for more enforcement, DFO approved a third officer for the Powell River office, which has responsibility for the Sunshine Coast.