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Portugal denies DFO team access to second fishing boat

Globe and Mail

22nd May 2004

For the second time in a week, three Canadian fisheries inspectors have been told to stay off a Portuguese fishing boat accused of illegal fishing on the Grand Banks.

The Portuguese trawler Aveirense arrived back in its home country yesterday three weeks after it was charged by Canadian fisheries inspectors with violating international fishing moratoriums on catching cod and flatfish in international waters on the Grand Banks.

The DFO inspectors had hoped to inspect the Aveirense in its home port to try to match the catch it brought home with what was found and videotaped during a high-profile arrest.

But the Portuguese government insisted that only European Union inspectors be allowed on board the ship. Last week, the Portuguese government also refused to allow the Canadians to inspect the fishing boat Brites when it arrived home after an incident in which DFO officials accused the crew of sinking a small-mesh net being used to fish illegally.

Fishermen in Newfoundland and Labrador have long complained that international fishing regulations can't be enforced to protect endangered cod and flatfish stocks and that Canada should take over the jurisdiction.

Over the past decade DFO investigators have issued 319 citations for illegal fishing on European vessels and only 24 have resulted in convictions.

DFO was disappointed with the Portuguese refusal to allow an inspection by the Canadians, a spokeswoman for federal Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan said last night.

The Portuguese allowed European Union officials to inspect the boat and DFO will have to wait for the results of that inspection before deciding on any further action, she said.

Gus Etchegary, a retired Newfoundland fish company owner and an outspoken advocate of Canada taking over management of the stocks outside its 200-mile limit, said he wasn't surprised that the Portuguese wouldn't allow the inspection.

"It just goes to show the utter failure of NAFO [the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization] to deal with the problem of illegal fishing," Mr. Etchegary said last night.

Mr. Etchegary said he fears the high-profile enforcement campaign on the Grand Banks and talk by federal cabinet ministers of expanding Canada's jurisdiction in international waters was a pre-election move designed to gain votes for the Liberals in Newfoundland's seven federal ridings.

However, the inability of the Canadians to arrest the Portuguese vessels or follow up with inspections could cost the Liberals votes in the province, he said.

18th May - Canadians denied access to Portuguese trawler accused of illegal fishing