New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

·2 min read

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) officers will soon receive a powerful new tool to assist patrols in B.C. waters for illegal fishing and infringements on marine protected areas.

Sometime in April the DFO base in Campbell River will take possession of a new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance aircraft for a suite of missions up and down the coast and into the western Arctic.

“The aircraft has lots of sophisticated surveillance sensors and arrays on board that captures information we can present to courts in prosecution situations, but also present it to flag states as evidence of illegal activities. The other aspect is to direct our support vessels to suspected illegal activity so they can carry out inspections,” Brent Napier, DFO’s director of enforcement policy and programs, conservation and protection said.

The plane will keep within 200 nautical miles of the coast with the ability to stay aloft for eight to 10 hours, twice the flight time of DFO’s current plane, a Beechcraft King Air. This new capacity is critical to reach remote protected areas.

“We’d like to spend a lot more time outside of our traditional patrol sites, because what we’re seeing really is a changing pattern in the Pacific, as large fleets look for ever-new stocks to fish," Napier said. "We want to be there to make sure we’re protecting those stocks. This [aircraft] will give us a whole new capacity that we never had before.”

The new plane will be a vital enforcement tool under an ever-growing mandate of the fisheries and oceans ministry to restore ocean health and fisheries, protect southern resident killer whales and expand ocean-based economies with sustainable industries.

In 2019 DFO signed a five-year, $128-million contract with PAL Aerospace in St. John’s, N.L. for a fleet of four new aerial surveillance aircraft. The other three are headed to the Atlantic provinces.

B.C.’s Dash-8 will also be used in partnership with the US government agencies to patrol the western arctic as new vulnerabilities arise due to the melting ice sheets.

“This aircraft will let us know what’s going on up there. There are emerging fisheries and science that’s being conducted, and we want to make sure everyone’s following the rules, that we aren’t getting foreign vessels as the ice clears," Napier said.

The Dash-8 will strengthen Canada’s ability to uphold obligations with other Pacific nations to police the “scourge” of illegal fishing in international waters, particularly with B.C.-bound Pacific salmon.

The plane will also serve as a scientific platform to more accurately map and monitor the migratory routes of specific salmon populations to help guide fisheries management decisions.

Quinn Bender, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View