Illegal shellfish harvest strikes


Salt Spring Island beaches were among those to see illegal shellfish harvests take place during mid-June’s extreme low tides.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced last week that its officers issued $600 in tickets in the southern Vancouver Island region between June 13 and 17 and seized close to 1,360 kilograms (3,000 pounds) of clams harvested in areas that were closed due to paralytic shellfish poisoning, commonly known as red tide.

Of the total amount seized, 590 to 680 kg (1,300 to 1,500 pounds) were taken from Salt Spring’s Duck Bay. Illegal harvests were also seized in Nanaimo, and on Thetis and Ruxton islands.

While the investigation is still ongoing, the DFO’s Shellfish Sanitation Program coordinator Elysha Gordon said officers suspect  the contaminated product was intended for commercial sales. That’s because such high volumes were taken and the fact that shellfish were placed in sacks commonly used by commercial fishermen.

“It wasn’t just a local tourist out there with their bucket of clams,” Gordon observed.

Gordon said that aspect is troubling since extremely high levels of PSP have been detected this spring. Much of the Strait of Georgia was closed to harvest after the warm spell in May, with waters from Campbell River all the way to Victoria judged to be unsafe.

“Most areas are still closed, although some started to reopen after the cooler weather in early June,” Gordon said.

For more on this story, see the June 27, 2018 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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