B.C. crab fishers tagged with $287,000 in penalties, first-time prohibition, says Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Federal fisheries officials say Canadian crab fishers along the Canada-U.S. border in southern B.C. are facing stiff financial penalties and a first-of-its-kind prohibition for illegally setting traps in U.S. waters.

On Thursday, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) made public information regarding investigations that stretched multiple years, beginning in 2018 in Boundary Bay.

It is located about a 50-minute drive south of Vancouver, has the Canada-U.S. border across its southern portion, and is often the site of DFO sweeps and stings around illegal fishing.

DFO says four men are facing $287,000 collectively in fines from this summer along with one being prohibited from fishing for the first 14 days of two upcoming season openings.

“This is the first time that this prohibition has been imposed by the courts,” said DFO in a release involving Han Van Lam, master of the vessel John Lam.

Lam is facing $50,000 in fines related to infractions from the 2019 and 2020 commercial seasons plus a ban from fishing for the first 14 days of the annual commercial season openings in 2024 and 2025. 

“So we haven’t removed his livelihood, but we have hopefully removed the opportunity for him to get right close to the border and then continue to creep over into U.S. waters,” said Bev McGuire-Funk with DFO.

“As well as it’s that other financial penalty on missing out on the first two weeks of the season.”

A DFO officer monitors a commercial fishing vessel during an enforcement operation in Boundary Bay in September 2020. (DFO)

McGuire-Funk said that Van Lam has been found in violation of federal fishing laws on other occasions back to 2005.

Under the Fisheries Act, it is illegal for anyone on a vessel subject to Canadian jurisdiction to fish outside of Canadian fisheries waters.

Other DFO investigations in Boundary Bay that wrapped up this summer included $20,000 in fines and a forfeiture in $19,03.68 of catch for Michael Hau, master of the Muoi H, who pleaded guilty for failing to scan his traps during the 2018, 2019 and 2020 crab fishing seasons, as per the conditions of his licence. 


Hoan Trung Do, master of the Bounty Hunter, pleaded guilty to fishing in U.S. waters and setting more traps than allowed under the conditions of his licence in 2018, 2019 and 2020. He was fined $160,000 in June.

Viet Dam, master of the Pacific Falcon, was fined $38,000 and forfeited 83 traps, also in June, after pleading guilty to illegally fishing in U.S. waters and fishing more traps than are allowed under his conditions of licence in 2019.

WATCH | B.C. diver uncovers scourge of illegal crab fishing: 

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Chris Samson followed a mysterious line on the ocean floor that led to a series of unmarked crab traps

DFO has put in place several conditions for fishing licences in Boundary Bay, known as Crab Area J, such as fishing boundaries; open and closed fishing times; quantity and marking of fishing gear; the use of electronic monitoring systems and record submissions.

“Licence conditions are in place for the proper care, control and management of the fishery,” said the agency. “Harvesters who choose to ignore the rules give themselves an unfair advantage, undermine the effective management of the fishery, and threaten the sustainability of the resource.”

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