An official with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it is not clear how well locals are complying with crabbing regulations, but her comments suggest that any problems might be of a minor nature.
Mandy Ludlow, a fishery officer and detachment commander of the Georgia Basin South Detachment, part of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Conservation and Protection Program, said it is difficult to answer the question of how widespread the problem of illegal crabbing off Sidney Wharf is.
The detachment recorded 57 violations of various kinds in 2020 at the respective crabbing docks in Sidney and Sooke but does not distinguish between the two locations.
“As the areas aren’t patrolled every day, and there hasn’t been appropriate methodology developed to compare this area from other areas for compliance rates, this question is tough to answer,” she said. “What we haven’t noticed at the Sidney crab docks, is any large-scale poaching.”
She added all investigations so far have involved a small number of recreational and domestic fishers and what she called “small amounts of illegal harvest.”
Officers with the local detachment conduct regular patrols in Sidney, as do officers with the marine patrol program, said Ludlow. Sidney/North Saanich RCMP officers also receive training, attending crabbing spots and issuing tickets. “This support is greatly appreciated,” she said.
This said, the detachment has seen its staff decrease in last several years.
“With competing priorities, the recreational crab fishery compliance issues cannot be attended to every day,” she said, adding the detachment tries to address the issues by promoting voluntary compliance.
“Until a particular fishery is 100 per cent compliant all the time, there is always room for improvement,” she said. “The ideal enforcement mechanism is voluntary compliance through education. If fishers always went online or called a local office to ensure they are in compliance with a particular fishery every time they went fishing, that would be success.”
Ludlow said the retention of undersized (male) crabs is an obvious danger of illegal harvesting. Male Dungeness and red rock crabs must be at least 165 mm and 115 mm wide at the widest part of the shell, she said. These limits are based on how big those crabs must be before they reproduce. “When undersized crabs are retained, those animals never have a chance to reproduce and this negatively impacts the fishery for the future,” she said. It is illegal to harvest females of any size.
Getting caught fishing without a Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence triggers a $100 ticket; retaining undersized crabs triggers a fine of $150 for the first crab and $50 for any additional crabs up to $1,000. Fishing with illegal crab traps is $150 per trap.
Ludlow said the public can report any fisheries violations at 1-800-465-4336 or email DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.