Halifax trial begins for fisherman, buyer, accused of illegal halibut landings
A trial is underway in Halifax for a Sambro fisherman, a fish buyer and two related companies accused of illegal halibut landings.
The case centers on seven voyages made by the fishing vessel Ivy Lew between May 2019 and June 2020.
Captain Casey Henneberry is accused of failing to comply with license conditions on several occasions, including on three trips where halibut catches were unloaded without a dockside monitor present.
Alleged illegal dumps
“Most of the charges relate to breach of a license condition,” Federal Crown Attorney Lee-Ann Conrod told Provincial Court Judge Elizabeth Buckle.
“The evidence will show that of the seven trips, three of them involved illegal unloading; failing to have all weights and species of all groundfish verified by a dockside observer in accordance with the permit. There was monitoring of three trips before or after legal unloading.”
Alleged buyer charged
Buyer Samir Zakhour is accused of being at the dock to buy halibut during the last “illegal unloading” in June 2020 and “participating in the unloading events without a monitor”, Conrod said.
He is also accused of misleading a fisheries officer the night of his arrest.
ALS Fisheries, owner of the boat, and Law Fisheries are also accused in the case.
DFO had their eye on Ivy Lew
Fisheries and Oceans Canada began investigating the fishing vessel Ivy Lew in January 2019.
It ended in June 2020 when officers seized the boat, a vehicle, cash and halibut.
Dozens of charges were laid last December.
The halibut license required Henneberry to keep a logbook estimating the amount of fish caught during the trip and to “flag” the amount to a dockside observing company – in this case, Barrington Catch Monitoring – three hours before the trip. arrival at the port.
The company then weighed the dressed fish – gutted with the heads removed – and reported the results.
DFO takes the dressed weight and multiplies it by a factor of 1.26 to estimate the weight of “round” or undressed halibut.
Fishery Officer Jessica Belbin said all of Henneberry’s phone calls were inaccurate.
She said he overestimated the “round” weight of the catch on five trips and underestimated what was on board on two trips.
Henneberry’s lawyer, Stan MacDonald, argued that “it would make no sense” for a fisherman to overestimate the catch if the intent was to mislead.
“Every pound of groundfish at dock is accounted for,” he said. “Hanging more than you actually have on board if you’re actually planning to unload this away from oversight would be giving it away, wouldn’t it?”
MacDonald identified three trips during which illegal unloadings allegedly took place. It all happened in 2020 and in two out of three, Henneberry underestimated what was on board – in a trip of 43%.
Holds not inspected due to COVID protocol
The trial also heard that a COVID protocol instituted in early 2020 by DFO prevented dockside monitors from boarding the Ivy Lew to check the hold when it arrived at Sambro.
“This is a measure that was put in place to limit potential interactions between instructors and anglers,” Belbin said.
“In this particular case, during this period, the dockside controllers were told that they didn’t actually have to check the fish hold. The importance of checking the fish hold was still there, but they did had the option of not boarding due to COVID security.”
This meant the Ivy Lew Hold was not inspected by dockside monitors on three voyages in 2020, although Barrington Catch weighed and counted the halibut seen.
DFO has since canceled the protocol.
“Dockside controllers are currently required to board vessels and check fish holds unless the controller believes checking inside the hold would not be safe due to the pandemic or ‘other dangers,’ spokeswoman Lauren Sankey said in a response to CBC News.
The trial will continue for the next nine months
There were nine counts related to offenses alleged by multiple parties. The Crown dropped two, involving all defendants, on Monday.
This was done to ensure the case meets the Supreme Court of Canada’s so-called “Jordan” rule which requires most trials in provincial courts to take place within 18 months of the charges being laid. .
DFO laid charges in this case in December 2021.
The trial continues this week, with dates scheduled for later this month and in January 2023.