Man fined $250,000 for illegal prawn fishing in B.C. glass sponge refuge

SECHELT, B.C. — The captain of a commercial fishing vessel has been fined $250,000 by a provincial court judge and ordered to forfeit $80,000 worth of equipment after being caught setting prawn traps in a glass sponge marine refuge near Sechelt, B.C.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says the unnamed vessel master received the sentence on Jan. 31, resulting in the forfeiture of 553 commercial prawn traps and 450 pounds of live prawns.

Fisheries officers seized the prawn traps in the Strait of Georgia in July 2020 in the protected area that is closed to all prawn fishing due to the highly sensitive nature of glass sponges.

The department says in a news release that the vessel master violated a number of other conditions of his commercial fishing licence between July and September 2020, resulting in the man being found guilty of 13 Fisheries Act violations last May.

The marine refuge is off-limits to all prawn fishing due to what's described as the highly sensitive nature of the glass sponge habitat.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says the reefs are a "globally unique ecosystem" providing habitat to spot prawns, rockfish, herring, halibut and sharks, and the glass sponges are extremely fragile due to their skeletons consisting of almost pure glass.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press