Troubled elver fishery 'just got out of hand:' Canada's fisheries minister
Canada's Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Joyce Murray admitted Tuesday the troubled baby eel or elver fishery "got out of hand" this spring blaming poachers attracted by easy money.
"We were enforcing the elver fishery. It just got out of hand, partly because of the ease of fishing and the value of the catch," Murray said in Ottawa outside Parliament.
Murray closed the fishery in mid-April after unprecedented numbers of unauthorized harvesters descended on Nova Scotia and New Brunswick rivers.
They came for the tiny, translucent eels netted as they migrate from the ocean into freshwater.
Elvers sell for thousands of dollars a kilogram and are shipped live to Asia where they are grown for food.
The influx of poachers posed a conservation risk to the species and a safety risk to fishery officers, harvesters and the public. There has been nighttime intimidation, threats and violence on rivers.
DFO has been accused by commercial elver licence holders and politicians of not doing enough to stop the illegal fishery — before and after the fisheries management order closing the commercial fishery was issued on April 15.
Murray claims $1-million in product has been seized
Murray insisted efforts to combat illegal fishing are yielding results.
"We have made many, many, like dozens, of arrests over the last few weeks since it was shut down. We've confiscated over $1 million of the product actually," Murray said.
"I definitely don't think that it's helpful for any MP to suggest there's no enforcement because we are working with provincial law enforcement. We're working with the RCMP."
Earlier this week DFO announced it seized 113 kilograms of elvers worth $500,000 after an inspection near Halifax on Friday.
But one commercial licence holder, Stanley King of Atlantic Elver Fishery, says illegal harvesting continues nightly and has the pictures to prove it.
He has installed trail cameras on rivers assigned to the company. He forward images regularly to Murray asking for enforcement. On Monday, he provided images of poaching on three rivers.
"This is the 22nd time I've reported elver poaching from these locations in the 23 days since the fishery was closed," King wrote.
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