Author: Paul Withers
Senior management ignored DFO warnings about storing traps at ocean bottom
Canadian seafood giant Clearwater was convicted of “gross violation” of fisheries regulations last fall after senior management ignored federal government warnings to change the way the company conducts its monopoly offshore lobster fishery, CBC News has learned.
The decision to prosecute North America’s largest shellfish producer occurred amid a lengthy and still ongoing lobby effort by Clearwater to change the rule it broke: a Canadian requirement that fishing gear at sea must be tended every 72 hours.
Clearwater company CS ManPar was convicted for storing 3,800 lobster traps on the ocean bottom off the Nova Scotia coast for upward of two months in the fall of 2017 — for 17 consecutive days on one occasion, 31 consecutive days on another.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) says the practice poses a “serious conservation risk” because lobster and other species can be unintentionally caught.
“This was a gross violation,” federal Crown prosecutor Derek Schnare told provincial court in Shelburne, N.S., on Sept. 20.
CBC News has obtained the submitted evidence and audio recording in the case, which has not been publicly reported.
A Clearwater spokesperson would not comment on the company’s conduct.
Halifax-headquartered Clearwater has exclusive rights to Lobster Fishing Area 41, which starts 80 kilometres from shore and runs to the 200-mile limit, extending from Georges Bank to the Laurentian Channel between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.
The company fishes entirely off southern Nova Scotia. Unlike every other lobster fishery, there is no season and Clearwater has been awarded a quota of 720 tonnes, which it says represents about 15 per cent of all lobster it sells.