A Nanaimo-based commercial crab fishing boat master has been convicted of five offences connected to illegal crab harvesting in violation of the Fisheries Act.
The charges against Scott Steer are the result of an incident near North Vancouver in March 2020 that saw his vessel boarded at high speed by fishery officers after he refused to stop. Steer was fishing for crab in the harbour at night, when he was spotted by a Vancouver Sea Bus, which reported him to the Marine Traffic Centre, according to a media release by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).
Steer and three crew members were arrested and held in custody by the North Vancouver RCMP. The fishing vessel, plus a truck and trailer were seized and the 300 live crab found on board were released back into the water.
Steer, who has faced serious judicial penalties in the past, including a jail term, a 22-year prohibition from fishing in Canadian or U.S. waters and significant fines, is currently under 24-hour house arrest and will be sentenced in October, the DFO said. He is prohibited until 2038 from applying for any Fisheries Act licences; being on board any fishing vessel; possessing/acquiring any vessels or owning any fishing gear.
In May, more charges were laid against Steer’s illegal fishing activities involving the harvest of sea cucumbers between July 2019 and March 2020, according to the release. He was arrested again and appeared in court on June 1 for a bail hearing for breaching his court-ordered conditions. On July 6, three additional charges against Steer were sworn in Nanaimo Provincial Court and that case is yet to be heard, according to the release.
Over the past several years four vessels and two vehicles have been seized from Steer as evidence.
Excess harvesting threatens conservation efforts. It also could result in management changes or closures, diminish the significant economic benefit from the fishery to coastal communities, recreational fisheries, commercial harvesters and tourism and threaten the traditional food source for Indigenous people.
The commercial crab fishery accounts for almost one third (about 31 per cent) of the wholesale value of the province’s wild shellfish products, according to the DFO.