PRINCE RUPERT, BC, May 18, 2021 /CNW/ - A significant British Columbia court case was finalized on April 21, 2021, by Prince Rupert Provincial Court, against Silas Miro Levesque, commercial master of the vessel Wind Walker. Mr. Levesque was found guilty of fishing for lingcod in a culturally significant closed area inside the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site.
The Honourable Judge Paul Dohm ordered Mr. Levesque, who pleaded guilty on February 18, 2021, to pay a fine of $20,000 for violations of Canada's Fisheries Act which occurred between October 30, 2018, and May 4, 2019. The Judge further ordered that Mr. Levesque pay an additional $25,000 as a 79.2 court order, to go towards the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat on and around Haida Gwaii.
According to electronic monitoring data, Mr. Levesque was fishing in a Strict Protection Zone that was closed to fishing as part of the marine zoning plan within the Land-Sea-People Management Plan. This area was identified as an ecologically important and culturally sensitive area adjacent to a Haida village site protected by the Haida Nation and Parks Canada, and is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The site commemorates the living culture of Haida people and their relationship to the land and sea.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a mandate to protect and conserve marine resources and to prosecute offenders under the Fisheries Act. It ensures and promotes compliance with the Act and other laws and regulations through a combination of land, air, and sea patrols, as well as education and awareness activities.
As part of Fisheries and Oceans Canada's work to end illegal activity, the Department asks the public for information on activities of this nature or any contravention of the Fisheries Act and regulations. Anyone with information can call the toll-free violation reporting line at 1-800-465-4336, or email the details to DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.
In 2010, Canada committed to conserving 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas through effectively managed networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) by 2020. In 2018, Canada further committed to supporting strategies to protect and manage vulnerable areas of our oceans and resources by establishing effective and science-based marine protected areas (MPAs) and OECMs.
To date, Canada has conserved nearly 14% of its oceans and there are currently 14 Oceans Act Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) across Canada, comprising over 350,000 km2 or roughly 6% of Canada's marine and coastal areas.
Protected areas include Marine Protected Areas created under the Oceans Act, National Marine Conservation Areas, and marine portions of National Wildlife Areas, Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, National Parks, and provincial protected areas. Protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECM) both contribute to marine conservation targets. To date, all areas that qualify as OECM have been fisheries area closures. Fisheries area closures that meet OECM criteria are known as "marine refuges."
The Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site is cooperatively managed by the Council of the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada (Parks Canada/DFO) through the Archipelago Management Board.
The Gwaii Haanas marine area was officially designated a National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site in 2010.
The Gwaii Haanas Land-Sea-People Plan was completed in 2018, with input from partners, stakeholders and the general public.
As of May 1, 2019, commercial and recreational fishing is prohibited in the strict protection zones of the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site.
The significant penalties order by the Court in this case underscores the seriousness of violating fishing rules and regulations under Canada's Fisheries Act intended to protect and preserve at-risk fish populations and vital ecosystems now, and for the future.
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SOURCE Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region
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