British Columbia fisherman fined for trapping in glass sponge area

Fishery officers caught a man with shrimp pots in an area closed to fishing to protect reef-building glass sponges. Canada has entered into international agreements to protect this underwater species.

A man found trapping shrimp in a protected area of ​​glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound has been fined $40,000.

John Howard Troy Henderson pleaded guilty to placing or setting shrimp traps in a closed time contrary to the federal Fisheries Act.

Fishery officers were in the area of ​​the Iles de la Défense glass sponge reef when their propeller became entangled in a buoy line on May 29, 2019. As they sailed up the buoy, they found data from connected boat license registration.

Officers determined that Henderson was the owner of the buoy line. He was informed that he had placed a string of shrimp pots within the boundary of the reef closure.

Henderson confirmed the traps were his, telling officers he had no idea there was a glass sponge reef there. He said he was unaware of the closure and had no intention of placing the traps in a closed area.

The reef has been closed to fishing since 2015.

Glass sponges are fragile, rare, filter-feeding animals with glass skeletons, Sechelt Provincial Court Judge Steven Merrick said in a May 25 ruling. Slow-growing but long-lived species live for over 200 years.

Reef-building glass sponges were common 200 million years ago, but were thought to have become extinct until they were discovered in British Columbia and Washington State in the late 1900s. 1980.

Skeletons remain after individual sponges die, and new sponges settle on these skeletons, creating mounds or reefs. Glass sponges can be up to 19 meters high and over a kilometer wide, the judge said.

“Canada has international obligations to protect glass sponge reefs in accordance with the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. “said Merrick.

The Crown requested a fine of $50,000 while the defense requested a fine of $10,000.

The judge said the reef is a delicate site, difficult to rejuvenate.

This is certainly not the first case of a high fine for such activity in this area.

In November 2021, a commercial fisherman who set 33 shrimp traps in a protected area of ​​glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound was fined $25,000 and had his shrimp fishing license suspended for a while. year. This was following the May 2016 infractions.

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