A Sambro, N.S., halibut fisherman convicted of underreporting his catch by 40 per cent on a week-long commercial fishing trip has been ordered to pay an additional $49,376 penalty.
Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Frank Edwards ruled an earlier provincial court sentence for vessel captain Casey Henneberry was too lenient.
Henneberry had four previous fisheries-related convictions before federal fishery officers boarded his vessel, R & S Venture, in May 2017 and found about 15,000 kilograms of halibut in the hold.
Henneberry failed to record in his log or hail in to shore almost 6,000 kilograms of halibut worth nearly $70,000.
In provincial court, Henneberry pleaded guilty to failing to maintain a true record of his catch as required in his fishing licence and was sentenced to pay $30,000, which was a $10,000 fine and $20,000 in a partial forfeiture of the catch.
Previous sentence rewarded a repeat offender
The Crown appealed on the grounds that the sentence was an inadequate deterrent because it allowed Henneberry to retain almost $40,000 from his illegal catch.
Edwards agreed and ordered Henneberry to pay the full value of the illegal catch, $69,376, in addition to the $10,000 for a total penalty of $79,376.
The judge said the previous court decision provided no deterrence and was "demonstrably unfit."
"It sends the wrong message to both the Respondent [Henneberry] and others involved in a lucrative but threatened fishery," Edwards wrote in his written decision released Wednesday.
"The sentence tacitly discounts the importance of conservation and protection of the halibut fishery. The sentence rewarded the conduct of a repeat offender to the detriment of honest fishers."
He noted Henneberry had been convicted of the same offence just three years earlier, so leniency wasn't appropriate.
Not 'a mere lapse in accounting'
Edwards dismissed all of Henneberry's excuses for failing to report his catch properly, including characterizing the offence as an accounting lapse.
"The recording requirement is a fundamental condition of the licence to catch halibut," said Edwards. "Any halibut caught but not 'properly accounted for' are illegally caught. It is an illegal catch. Fishers have to understand that the Court will not treat the failure to make a log entry as a mere lapse in accounting."
Edwards rejected Henneberry's claim that dockside monitoring would have picked up the unrecorded catch when the vessel landed.
He said dockside monitoring is "very susceptible" to being circumvented and referred to a 2014 case when four halibut fishermen were caught avoiding dockside monitors 67 times.
Edwards said the "lucrative nature" of the industry acts as an incentive to risk breaching licence conditions, such as underreporting and failing to accurately record and hail in catch weights.
"That in turn allows for [the] opportunity to dispose of the illegal portion of the catch away from the prying eyes of the monitor," he said.
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