Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Federal Government Investigates Huge Illegal Sockeye Catch by First Nations: DFO Probes Illegal First Nation Fishery

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Federal Government Investigates Huge Illegal Sockeye Catch by First Nations: DFO Probes Illegal First Nation Fishery

Article excerpt

VANCOUVER - A seafood company that prides itself on buying nothing but sustainable and legal fish says it has become a bycatch in an investigation into an alleged illegal First Nation salmon fishery.

Provincial court documents say the federal government is investigating the illegal catch of about 64,000 kilograms of prime sockeye salmon in the Johnstone Strait last August.

It's part of a wider investigation that a spokeswoman from the Department of Fisheries wouldn't elaborate on beyond saying no charges have yet been laid.

But the court documents show the Crown told the judge the investigation was extensive, involved more than one First Nation and concerned the various agreements between them and the federal government.

The documents show Pasco Seafood Enterprises Inc. purchased the fish last summer and began processing them. But Fisheries then seized 31 large totes of salmon saying it was illegally caught.

Pasco said in its statement it did everything by the book, checking the First Nations permit to fish and all other paper work authorizing the fishery.

"This case pertains to a dispute between the DFO and the First Nations band with regard to the interpretation of their fishing agreement," Pasco president Jason Ogilvie said in an email statement to The Canadian Press.

When the fish were being processed at the company's Richmond, B.C., plant, Fisheries officers inspected Pasco's paper and said it was complete and in order, Ogilvie said.

"But there was a question as to whether the First Nations band had the right to fish in the Johnstone Strait area."

An affidavit filed in provincial court by Fisheries officer Trevor Tomlin said the salmon were caught in a closed area and the fish harvesters didn't have a license to catch the fish.

The investigation came to light because Pasco asked the federal government to return seized documents and the $90,000 the government received from selling the salmon. …

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