Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

February 22, 2008 17:07 ET

Vessels Confiscated and Licences Cancelled for Illegal High Seas Driftnet Use in North Pacific Ocean

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Feb. 22, 2008) - The Honourable Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, today said that action has been taken against six Chinese fishing vessels that were sighted using illegal high seas driftnets in the North Pacific Ocean during Canada's Operation Driftnet aerial patrols last September.

"Operation Driftnet patrols play a key role in shutting down destructive illegal fishing activities on the high seas in the North Pacific," said Minister Hearn. "Canadians can be proud of our contribution to this important multinational effort."

Each year, more than four million square kilometres of the North Pacific are scanned beyond our 200-mile limit by Canadian fishery officers and their U.S. counterparts from the National Marine Fisheries Service for Operation Driftnet. During the September 2007 patrol, six Chinese vessels were sighted using illegal driftnets. After Canadian and U.S. fishery officers reported the violations to the U.S. Coast Guard, all six were apprehended.

As a result, China confiscated each vessel and five of the six have since been sold. The owners of the vessels had their international fishing licences cancelled and were fined at least $7,000 each.

Licence cancellations apply to a vessel owner's entire fleet, so this is a substantial penalty. One owner did not have an international licence, so his fine was doubled to $14,000. The captains of the vessels were also punished with licence suspensions.

Operation Driftnet is made possible through close co-operation between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Department of National Defence. The flights are conducted using Canada's Air Force CP-140 Aurora aircraft; one of few aircraft in the world uniquely equipped to effectively search such a vast expanse. During the patrols, Canadian and U.S. fishery officers identify and record evidence of vessels using high seas driftnets, which are illegal in the North Pacific Ocean and highly destructive to Pacific salmon and other marine resources, such as tuna, marine mammals, and seabirds.

When vessels are sighted using this gear or engaging in other illegal fishing activity, they are reported to the U.S. Coast Guard or other co-operating agencies, including the Russian Federal Border Service, the Japanese Fisheries Agency, the Fisheries Agency of South Korea, and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. This co-operation is made possible through the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission and the North Pacific Heads of Coast Guard Forum.

"Illegal fishing activities must be dealt with swiftly and harshly so vessel owners and captains think twice before they consider breaking the rules," said Minister Hearn. "Canada and its partners in the North Pacific are proving that they are up to this task.

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Contact Information

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Phil Jenkins
    Media Relations
    Office of the Minister
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Joshua Zanin
    Special Assistant, Communications