For four years the Marine Patrol Program’s (MPP) fisheries officers have been out on the water patrolling remote areas on the coast to protect local fisheries.
Their office is the M.Charles, a hero class vessel that covers the entire South Coast of British Columbia monitoring commercial, recreational, and First Nations fisheries for compliance with Fisheries legislation.
“It’s a very efficient way to cover fisheries on the west coast because we can get into remote places,” said Field Supervisor Les Sanderson, adding that they recently “checked a boat right at the head of in Knights Inlet, which is kind of out of the way, and they really didn’t expect to see us out there.”
The vessel-based detachment is operated by the Canadian coast guard and holds a team of three Conservation and Protection, Fishery Officers.
The MPP operates year round typically travelling to areas that require more Fishery Officer presence assisting local conservation and protection detachments.
Sanderson said he thinks it’s important that the public is more aware of the MPP program.
“It is a shining example of the cooperative work happening between the Canadian Coast Guard and Conservation Protection to protect our coastal fisheries,” said Sanderson, adding “We also support Search and Rescue efforts on the coast and work jointly with other Regulatory Agencies such as the Canadian Border Service Agency.”
He said they are able to provide 24/7 coverage on the coast and can respond rapidly to fisheries violations.
“I think the biggest difference for us than a local detachment is that we are always out on the water,” said MPP officer David Clattenburg, adding “We eat, sleep, and live in the fishing grounds so we are always there and we are mobile so we can get to where land-based detachments can’t.”
Sanderson said another aspect of the program is “working on building relationships with Coastal First Nations and working with them to conserve and protect the fisheries resource.”
Clattenburg added that the name of their vessel is significant of that, as the M.Charles is named after Seaman Martin Charles, of Bamfield, British Columbia, and Hereditary Chief of the Nitinat Band who devoted his life and career to saving lives earning the Medal of Bravery for his role in search and rescue.
The MPP also monitors the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP) closures which are sites up and down the coast closed to shellfish harvest for public safety reasons.
“We will get into those areas and make sure they are properly marked with signs and make sure no one is harvesting there because it could make people sick,” said Sanderson, adding that it is important to verify that the area of harvest is open because eating contaminated shellfish can be life-threatening.
He also advises fishers to check fishery notices regularly to watching for in-season changes and if people have fisheries violations to report they can call the Observe, Record, Report line at 1-800-465-4336.