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Queen Charlotte Lodge to pay $35,000 for illegal fishing

Queen Charlotte Lodge will pay $35,000 after pleading guilty to six violations of the federal Fisheries Act in 2014.
A fishery officer inspects pallets of fish seized from Queen Charlotte Lodge

Queen Charlotte Lodge will pay $35,000 after pleading guilty to six violations of the federal Fisheries Act.

The luxury fishing resort on Naden Harbour is the second Haida Gwaii fishing lodge to pay major fines in just over a year.

Back in December 2015, Naden Lodge was fined $15,000 for exceeding possession limits and selling fish not covered by a commercial licence.

“We’re setting an example, and I hope that all lodges are taking note,” said Geoff Thorburn, a local fishery officer with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

On Dec. 14, 2016, Queen Charlotte Lodge pled guilty to six violations.

But its $35,000 penalty is what the court agreed would be appropriate for all 37 charges the company was facing.

The charges date back over two years, to Aug. 8, 2014, when fishery officers did a surprise inspection of the lodge.

From the QCL freezers, officers seized about 750 lbs. of mishandled or mislabeled fish: 38 halibut, 28 chinook, 119 coho, six pink salmon, and a bag with 28 halibut filets.

The fish will now be donated to elders’ and school programs on Haida Gwaii.

The most serious violation the lodge pled guilty to was cutting the halibut in such a way that it couldn’t be measured by inspectors by law, they must be able to measure a halibut in possession to see if it is over or under the legal size.

Queen Charlotte Lodge also failed to label individual packages of fish and larger boxes with the words, ‘Sport-caught fish: Not for Sale,’ which is also required by law.

Individual packages were missing labels to show the species of fish inside, and larger containers did not have either the name of the fisher who caught them, nor the date the fish was caught.

As with Naden Lodge, which was ordered to pay $12,000 of its $15,000 fine toward a fund for local non-profit fish habitat conservation groups, $32,000 of the Queen Charlotte Lodge penalty is set aside for the same purpose.

In another case, Queen Charlotte Lodge is charged with contravening commercial fishing licence conditions, selling illegally caught fish, and producing false records in August 2015. None of those charges has been proven in court.

Between the Naden Lodge and Queen Charlotte Lodge fines over the last 13 months, at least $44,000 is now available to local conservation groups for fisheries and habitat rehabilitation, fisheries education programs or marine mammal research.

Groups can apply for the funds by phoning the supervisor in the Queen Charlotte DFO office at 250-559-4413.

“We’re here to help the community as best we can,” said Thorburn, noting that the natural resources of Haida Gwaii are the reason many people live here.

“Especially for the Haida people, who have been here since time immemorial, it’s really important that it stays that way.”