A Comox Valley-based shellfish operation has been hit with fines totaling $10,000 for licence violations.
The province court decision against Keith Chui, a commercial clamfish harvester, actually took place in Courtenay on Feb. 17 but was only released June 11. In the decision, Judge Brian Hutcheson found Chui guilty of eight counts of violating the federal Fisheries Act.
The issues surrounding the charges against Chui were incomplete information on mandatory shellfish container tags, inaccurate information of product harvested from his aquaculture site spanning several years and failure to submit two Annual Aquaculture Statistical reports. The DFO news release notes that 38 traceability tags were missing required information about who harvested, the location and when this happened. The fine for each count was $1,500 for a total of $4,500.
His activity records also did not accurately represent what was harvested from his site between 2014 and 2016. Again, the fine for each violation was $1,500, adding up to $4,500.
Finally, for failing to submit his Annual Aquaculture Statistical Report for 2015 and 2016, he was fined $500 for each of two counts, or $1,000, bringing the total of the infractions to $10,000. DFO uses the reports for the traceability of fish or for resource management purposes, while the federal and provincial agencies use them to tally gross domestic product.
DFO confirmed Chui’s aquaculture licence is based on Denman Island, but that he lives in Courtenay. Three other individuals were also charged. These charges were stayed, while Chui pleaded guilty to all counts.
“All four individuals were named on the aquaculture licence as ‘Issued to.’ When charges are laid for a violation against a licence condition, Crown counsel usually charges everyone, including a company if applicable, that the licence is issued to,” fishery officer Ari Turunen told the Record via email. “The investigation showed that Mr. Keith Chui was the main individual who was the most responsible for harvesting the clams and oyster from the aquaculture lease.”
As to why the decision was released now, DFO said this was likely due to the time required in getting some court documents and processing them through the department.
DFO is encouraging the public to provide information on similar activities or any contravention of the Fisheries Act and regulations. Anyone with information can call the toll-free line at 1-800-465-4336, or email details to DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca