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Canada boards vessels accused of illegal fishing

CBC News

6th May 2004

Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan confirmed
that Canadian officials boarded five vessels this week
accused of illegal fishing off the East Coast,
just outside Canada's 200-mile limit.

The Portuguese vessel Aveirense was one of the ships boarded
Photo: DFO

The boats, at least two from Portugal, are accused of fishing for cod, a species currently protected by a moratorium.

Three coast guard vessels and one navy frigate was
involved in the confrontation on the high seas, Regan said.

Regan said the vessels were boarded and inspected
this week as a result of special enforcement on the
high seas.

Fish in the crew quarters of the Aveirense
Photo: DFO

He said two citations were issued against one of the Portuguese vessels for failure to wait 30 minutes before retrieving gear and for fishing for species under moratorium.

Regan said officials want to further inspect the Portuguese vessel. He said officials believe
evidence was destroyed or tampered with and he said he asked the Portuguese government and the European Union for permission to bring
the ship to a Canadian port.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham says he's
called in the Belgian and Portuguese ambassadors
about the incident.

One of the Canadian vessels monitoring the area
Photo: DFO

Under new rules, Canada has the right to seize vessels outside the economic zone if it suspects illegal activity.

"Foreign overfishing by rogue ships and their owners is unacceptable to Canadians, to this government and to me as Prime Minister," Prime Minister Paul Martin said in a statement.

Regan also announced that the federal government will spend an additional $15 million to fight illegal fishing.

"It is our hope that harassing these international modern-day pirates on the sea with further boardings and inspections …will help keep them away from the [fish]."

Regan said the money will be used to expand patrols — from one vessel to three, for round-the-clock sea patrols and to step up boarding activities on foreign trawlers.

But Conservative leader Stephen Harper said the government's tough new approach to protecting the fishery is just playing politics before an election.

"I think this is a pre-election show and if they were serious about this as a policy they would have established it as a practice over the last several years," Harper said.

Regan said the measures have nothing to do with electioneering and that the government has been working on new action for "some time."