File photo of Lower Mainland salmon courtesy Fernando Lessa

Illegal salmon selling “rampant and open” in Langley, fisheries department says

Fisheries and Oceans Canada spokesperson calls it “an urgent health and conservation concern”

Illegal salmon sales in Langley have reached a point where they pose a “considerable risk to salmon stocks” said Leri Davies, a spokesperson for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region.

“Lower Mainland fishery officers, particularly in Langley area, have been receiving a significant volume of public complaints around rampant and open illegal sales of fresh salmon,” Davies said in a written release issued as the long weekend was getting underway.

“These sales not only represent a significant risk to human health, they also pose a considerable risk to salmon stocks that are vulnerable.”

Davies called the problem “an urgent health and conservation concern.”

The spokesperson said there will be stepped-up patrols by Fisheries officers in response to the complaints.

Fines under federal and provincial regulations allow penalties as high as $100,000 for purchasing, selling, trading or bartering seafood caught in a fishery where sales are not authorized.

Davies said anyone who buys seafood is responsible for making sure that it was lawfully caught under a licence authorizing sale.

“If in doubt, ask what fishery the seafood has come from and request to see the commercial licence or Aboriginal Fishery Landing Slip,” Davies said.

In 2011, a report by Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) staff to the Cohen Commission into the decline of Fraser sockeye said that Aboriginal fisheries on the lower Fraser River were “out of control” and vast amounts of salmon supposed to go strictly for food, social and ceremonial purposes were instead being sold on the black market.

DFO investigators estimated 97 per cent of lower Fraser sockeye harvested under aboriginal food fisheries were sold, according to one document summarizing internal department concerns after an April 2010 meeting.

A 2006 operational intelligence assessment by DFO’s Special Investigations Unit warned illegal sales of First Nations-caught fish is widespread across B.C. via back door dealing to restaurants and fish shops as well as door-to-door sales.

“The FSC (food, social and ceremonial) First Nations fishery on the Lower Fraser River is largely out of control and should be considered in all contexts, a commercial fishery,” the assessment said, warning DFO is “unable to effectively control the illegal sales.”

Even when poachers are caught many never pay their fines.

There was more than $1 million in outstanding fines for illegal fishing in the Pacific region, according to an update tabled at the Cohen inquiry.

A 2005 probe by fishery officers that audited 110 Lower Mainland fish plants found 345,000 sockeye in storage.

That was the end of a season where low sockeye returns meant no commercial fishery was allowed, nor was any aboriginal economic opportunity fishing (a limited for-profit commercial fishery for First Nations.)

But the investigation ran out of funding, DFO officers never got proof any of the frozen salmon were sold and no prosecutions resulted.

At the time of the Cohen Commision, Sto:lo fisher advisor Ernie Crey, dismissed the allegations, saying aboriginal people don’t use traditional preservation methods as much and have increasingly turned to industrial freezers.

“It’s not prohibited,” Crey said. “We can do that if we choose, along with all other Canadians.”

He said DFO wrongly assumed the fish in 2005 was destined for the black market.

“They don’t have any direct evidence that’s the case,” he said.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Salmon influx a sign of success

READ ALSO: Culvert design aimed at saving salmon in Langley Township

READ ALSO: Photographer chronicles the underwater life of salmon in the city

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Spreading Christmas cheer around Aldergrove

Easing the pains and difficulties of hard times is ‘reason for the season’

120 turn up for Aldergrove blood clinic

More volunteer help welcomed by Canadian Blood Services

VIDEO: Hundreds compete in Langley Olympians intra club meet

An opportunity for older and younger swimmers to get a taste of competition, coach says

Candy Cane Run rolls through Murrayville in Langley

Annual food bank fundraiser by firefighters

VIDEO: Basics for Babies underway at Langley Events Centre

Canadian country stars perform at fundraiser

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

Boeser has 2 points as Canucks ground Flyers 5-1

WATCH: Vancouver has little trouble with slumping Philly side

Man dies after falling from B.C. bridge

Intoxicated man climbed railing, lost his balance and fell into the water below

Hundreds attend Hells Angels funeral in Maple Ridge

Body of Chad John Wilson found last month face-down under the Golden Ears Bridge.

B.C. animation team the ‘heart’ of new ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

The animators, largely based in Vancouver, ultimately came up with a creative technique that is drawing praise

Light at the end of the tunnel for UN climate talks

Meeting in Katowice was meant to finalize how countries report their emissions of greenhouses gases

Gas prices to climb 11 cents overnight in Lower Mainland

Hike of 17 cents in less than 48 hours due to unexpected shutdown of Washington state pipeline

Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in at the 34th induction ceremony

Supreme Court affirms privacy rights for Canadians who share a computer

Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure

Most Read