British Columbia

Vancouver retailer fined over $70K for illegally bought spot prawns, crab

A seafood market in Vancouver has been fined $72,500 for illegally purchasing spot prawns and Dungeness crabs that were harvested outside of the allowed season, marking the second major fine for the retailer in recent years.

Officer said DFO pleased court made rare move of imposing conditions on store for a two-year period

Conservation and protection fisheries officers from the DFO seized 826 pounds of illegally harvested Dungeness crab from Yat Ming Enterprises' Vancouver store on March 4, 2014. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

A seafood market in Vancouver has been fined $72,500 for purchasing local spot prawns and Dungeness crabs that were harvested outside of the legal commercial season, marking the second major fine for the retailer in recent years.

Lawyers for Yat Ming Enterprises — which runs a seafood market on Kingsway Street — pleaded guilty in provincial court to purchasing the seafood illegally in January, February and March of 2014, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The ruling followed a major investigation by conservation and protection fisheries officers from the DFO — which was initiated after they received an anonymous complaint about the store.

Officers inspected the store and, on one occasion in March 2014, seized 826 pounds of illegally harvested Dungeness crab, said DFO fisheries officer Shannon Rivest.

A conservation issue

The commercial harvesting season for spot prawn is generally open from May through to June, and in the Lower Mainland the commercial season for Dungeness crab begins around June or July and typically closes around the end of November, Rivest said.

Wild B.C. spot prawns are known for their sweet, delicate flavour and firm texture. (CBC)

"They need time to reproduce, and they're closed in that season in this area so they can help reproduce and provide a sustainable fishery for future generations," she said.

In a previous court case heard in February 2014, Yat Ming Enterprises was fined $12,000 for possessing a significant number of undersized Dungeness crabs in their Kingsway Street store's live holding tanks.

Following the latest ruling, the company has been ordered to follow several conditions for a period of two years to prove the legality of their seafood products.

Rare conditions imposed on retailer

The conditions include a ban on receiving deliveries of any local Dungeness crabs or local spot prawns between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m., and reporting details of their deliveries such as time periods, species and quantities to the DFO.

Rivest said it is rare for the court to impose conditions like this in addition to a fine.

"The fact that this company was ordered to go above and beyond in proving its legality of the crab and prawn they're selling to the public … is quite a success for DFO," Rivest said.

"I hope this is the direction we see repeat offenders going." 

A number of Lower Mainland seafood companies, fishermen and fishing resorts have been fined for violations following investigations by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in recent months.

In early 2016 the operator of another Vancouver seafood company was fined $30,000 for also purchasing spot prawns caught out of season — in January and February 2014.

In December 2016, a luxury fishing resort on Haida Gwaii was fined a total of $32,000 for illegal fishing activities such as exceeding the two-day limit allowed on a recreational fishing licence.