Marine “crime” against B.C.’s threatened rockfish is on the rise.
That’s according to a recent study from University of Victoria researchers, which found that incidents of anglers breaking laws meant to protect the fish have increased “to the highest levels seen during our eight years of data collection.”
The results indicate that “increased enforcement” of conservation laws may be necessary, the report’s authors conclude.
Poaching is a serious problem, because some rockfish species can live to be more than 100-years-old and these ones are often the best breeders.
“Taking the really old ones is the worst crime,” Jeff Marliave, a former senior research scientist with the organization Ocean Wise, told Hakai Magazine.
The new study explains that researchers set up cameras monitoring Rockfish Conservation Areas around Galiano Island. These zones were created to protect rockfish habitats from damaging human activities.
Researchers also conducted surveys asking fishermen whether they had “accidentally or intentionally fished inside RCAs with prohibited techniques in the past two years.”
The results were shocking. “Regardless of whether it was accidental or deliberate, the new study shows an increase in illegal fishing activity across all sites monitored by trail cameras,” Hakai reports.
The number of illegal incidents was significantly higher in 2021 than in 2015 when the monitoring began.
Authorities managed to crack down on poachers in some cases, including hefty fines and fishing prohibitions in 2018 for three men who egregiously violated possession limits for rockfish.
“Their conduct was reprehensible,” a Sechelt Provincial Court judge said in his ruling.