Search for illegal fishing activity continues

  • Nov. 22, 2010 11:00 a.m.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has resumed its hunt for illegal fishing operations in the Pacific this year with Operation Driftnet.”During Canada’s long-range air surveillance activities in October, two vessels were identified as vessels of interest based on available information,” says Frank Stanek, media relations manager for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. “Examples of illegal activity can include things such as the use of high seas driftnets, or fishing for salmon in the high seas, both of which are not permitted under the rules of North Pacific Anadromous Fisheries Commission.”The annual activity of searching an expanse of more than four million square kilometers of the North Pacific began in 1993 as a joint effort between Canada and several other nations such as Russia and North Korea. The patrols began after the United Nations imposed a moratorium on all large-scale high seas driftnet fishing and banned all nets longer than 2.5 kilometres.”(The) information (that was collected) was relayed to other cooperating members of the NPAFC who participate in enforcement efforts in the high seas of the North Pacific,” said Mr. Stanek. “No vessels were apprehended as a result of Canadian patrols in 2010, therefore no prosecutions are expected.”The aerial patrols, conducted from a CP-140 Aurora, one of the few aircraft in the world capable of flying for more than 14 hours before refueling, are carried out in the spring and fall every year. Carrying 14 highly trained Canadian Forces personnel as well as officers from DFO and their United States counterparts, the aircraft is deployed from Alaska to patrol the vast expanse of the North Pacific in search of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (also known as IUU fishing) activities in our waters. This kind of fishing often targets vulnerable species such as salmon, tuna and squid, and can result in a large “bycatch” of other marine species, including mammals and birds.The patrols use state-of-the-art electro-optical cameras and satellite technology that allows the aircraft and crew to remain unseen as they monitor a ship and collect and record information such as driftnet rigging, markings on the ship, and the ship’s activities. The information is then used to target suspicious vessels. The information is then distributed to other partnering nations as well as the offending nation, often resulting in further investigations.As of 2006, such investigations had resulted in 59 vessels being implicated, resulting in seizures of vessels, fines and even jail time for some of the offenders.”We are encouraged by the recent decline in the number of apprehensions in the North Pacific,” said Mr. Stanek, “and we believe that Operation Driftnet has played an important role in deterring IUU fishing… and we intend to keep up the pressure.”