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Nets in water too long
DFO seizes almost 4,000 pounds of rotten fish on Great Slave Lake

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Friday, August 8, 2014

Fishing nets containing at least 4,000 pounds of rotten fish have been seized west of Hay River in Great Slave Lake.

nnsl photo

Seized nets and the rotten fish they contain are offloaded in July from a Canadian Coast Guard vessel at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans wharf in Hay River. - photo courtesy of Department of Fisheries and Oceans

The seizure was made by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Gerald Fillatre, the detachment supervisor with DFO in Yellowknife, said the nets were spotted by an aerial surveillance flight on July 18 and there was a follow-up vessel patrol the same day.

"We came across some nets which had fish that had become rotten in them," he said. "The nets had been set too long."

Fillatre explained that, in the NWT, commercial fishermen are allowed to set nets for up to 30 hours in the summer, and the reason for that is fish degrades over time in warm water.

The 30-hour limit is to prevent wastage of the resource.

"We estimate that these nets were down for more than a week," said Fillatre of the nets seized on July 18.

The DFO official said leaving nets in the water for too long is a violation under the Fisheries Act.

"Charges haven't been laid at this point, but the investigation is ongoing," he said, adding that charges are expected in the near future under the Fisheries Act and/or the NWT Fishery Regulations.

That would be the first charges this year on Great Slave Lake for leaving nets in the water too long.

Fillatre would offer no information on the identity or home community of the fisher who may be facing charges.

"Commercial fishing gear has to be identified as to ownership by having net flags on them," he noted.

The nets, which stretched almost two kilometres, were located about 30 km west of Hay River.

Fillatre, who is responsible for DFO's enforcement programs in the NWT, said the nets contained multiple species, including whitefish, innonnu, lake trout, suckers and pike.

"If we didn't pull these nets, these nets could have fished continually," he said.

The seized fish was disposed of at the Hay River landfill site.

"There was more fish in the nets," noted Fillatre. "Some of the fish were degraded so badly that they would fall out of the net as we pulled the net."

DFO routinely does surveillance flights as part of its monitoring of the commercial fishery on Great Slave Lake.

Fillatre noted the flight on July 18 also spotted a vessel fishing in an area closed to fishing to protect inconnu stocks.

Charges are also expected to be laid soon in that incident.

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