The Pacific hake are the most abundant groundfish off the Pacific coast of North America.

Vancouver Island fishing boat captain fined $10,000 for unknowingly violating license

Ian Jeffrey Garnier, 45, fined for fishing in a closed area, failing to properly record catch, and releasing fish contrary to regulations

A north Island fishing boat captain was fined $10,000 last week for Fisheries Act infractions that may have actually cost him money, and the judge accepts he had no idea he made.

Following court hearings before Judge Catherine Crockett in Campbell River and Courtenay Provincial Court, Ian Jeffrey Garnier, 45, was fined July 8 for fishing in a closed area, failing to properly record his catch, and releasing fish contrary to regulations — among other Fisheries Act charges.

He pled guilty to eight counts in connection with separate incidents which occurred Sept. 9, 2011, while fishing for hake in waters near Port Hardy, and on Nov. 13, 2012, while trawling for groundfish near Queen Charlotte Sound.

“Given the extensive monitoring by on-board observers or electronic means, it is difficult to conceive of why a person would deliberately violate any of the conditions that form the bases of these charges,” Crockett wrote in her decision. “It was only a matter of time before the violations were discovered.”

In the first instance, video cameras in place to ensure license compliance recorded members of Garnier’s crew tossing about 2,000 pounds of fish overboard without his knowledge — fish they could have kept. Neither he, nor the crew could provide any reason for the action, which the court described as throwing money away.

In the second instance, an on-board compliance observer determined much later that Garnier’s trawl had extended 1.3 kilometres inside a 27,000 square-kilometre closed area. Again, Garnier said he was unaware he had entered a forbidden zone.

In each case, the violations were not brought to Garnier’s attention until two years after the fact.

The judge accepted Garnier’s testimony about his lack of knowledge and acknowledged his quick guilty plea and his remorse.

“It is fair to say that if Captain Garnier gained financially from his transgressions, that gain was not significant,” she wrote. “On the other hand, Captain Garnier has prior convictions including one involving fishing in a closed area. He is required to exercise due diligence in following all of the terms of his commercial fishing licence, and the regulations. He did not do so.

“I am mindful of the effect this type of conduct has on the ability of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to ensure fisheries are managed in a sustainable manner. These offences require fines which will deter Captain Garnier, and others, from conducting themselves in a similar manner in the future. Fishing is a highly regulated industry: those who undertake it have a duty to make sure they follow the rules in order to protect and maintain the valuable resources contained in our oceans.”

The crown had been seeking fines totalling $26,522 while the defence had countered with $4,000.

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