Snow crab fishers plead guilty for failing to accurately report catch weight

·2 min read
Court heard the fishers unloaded the catches in Souris between June of 2019 and May of 2020 at Souris wharf. (Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images - image credit)
Court heard the fishers unloaded the catches in Souris between June of 2019 and May of 2020 at Souris wharf. (Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images - image credit)

A number of snow crab fishers pleaded guilty in a P.E.I. court Thursday to violations of the Fisheries Act following a Department of Fisheries and Oceans investigation of landings at a Souris wharf in recent years.

A total of 13 people are charged.

The three fishermen in court in Georgetown Thursday pleaded guilty to charges of failing to accurately report the weight of their catches of snow crab in accordance with the Fisheries Act.

Also pleading guilty was a woman who worked on the dock monitoring crab catches.

Court heard the fishers unloaded the catches in Souris between June of 2019 and May of 2020 at Souris wharf.

'It's a conservation matter'

Fisherman Brody DesRoches of New Brunswick pleaded guilty. The court heard he underestimated a catch by about 1,500 pounds in June of 2019.

Fisherman Jax Harper underestimated his landings in April 2020 by about 3,000 pounds. His father, Joseph Harper, pleaded guilty to two counts.

Provincial court Judge Nancy Orr levied fines against the fishers ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 each.

"It's a conservation matter," she said.

"Everybody is aware snow crab is a lucrative fishery in this jurisdiction … captains get the big bucks, they also get the big responsibility."

More pleas

Deborah Lee Sheffer was fined $5,000 after pleading guilty to her part in recording the catches of several fishermen.

She told the court she didn't know what she was doing was wrong, and complained that her fine is higher than the fishers.

Three other fishers also pleaded guilty to charges under the Fisheries Act, through lawyers representing them by teleconference. Earl Patrick McRae pleaded guilty to four counts; Jason Robert Ahearn pleaded guilty to two counts; and James Gavin pleaded guilty to one count.

Defence lawyer Clifford Hood, from Yarmouth, N.S., said it's common for snow crab fishermen to shift quota from boat to boat.

Hood said his clients just failed to fill out the proper paperwork, but did not exceed their overall quota.

Five others involved in the case have not yet entered pleas.

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