Nfld. & Labrador

Ocean Choice International off the hook for illegal fishing charge

Ocean Choice International will not be prosecuted for fishing in a protected area during a closed time despite admitting to the incident. 

An affiliated numbered company can still be prosecuted

Ocean Choice International's Newfoundland and Labrador ships dock in Harbour Grace (Ocean Choice International)

Ocean Choice International will not be prosecuted for fishing in a protected area during a closed time, despite admitting to the incident. 

In court, OCI's lawyer argued a technicality and on Thursday, Judge James Walsh dismissed a charge of illegal fishing  against the company. 

The charge arose from an allegation that OCI fished for Greenland halibut in the so-called Northern Newfoundland Slope Conservation area between Feb. 4-10, 2018. 

In a September 2018 press release, OCI said court documents from both sides — the company and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans — verified the captain wasn't aware of the newly designated conservation area off the northeast coast of the island.

OCI was charged with illegally fishing in a protected area of Newfoundland's northeast coast. (DFO)

"The vessel was fishing in the area for approximately six hours when it was alerted of the issue. The vessel left the area immediately," according to OCI's release. 

Both OCI and an affiliated numbered company in a limited partnership with OCI were charged with breaching the Fisheries Act over the incident.

55104 Newfoundland and Labrador Inc., as a general partner, can still be prosecuted and a future court date has been set. 

The technicality 

The Fisheries Act does not explicitly reference partnerships of any kind, and states offences are committed by a person or a corporation, according to Judge Walsh. 

"The question I have to ask is does the definition of organization in the Criminal Code apply to the Fisheries Act by virtue of the provisions of the Interpretation Act," said Walsh.

Peter O'Flaherty is a lawyer for Ocean Choice International. He appeared in court on Thursday. (Katie Breen/CBC)

OCI lawyer Peter O'Flaherty, argued his client, as a limited partner, was neither a person nor a corporation and, therefore, the charge was void. 

Walsh found the Criminal Code definition for organization was not incorporated into or referenced by the Fisheries Act or the Atlantic Fishery Regulations, noting that it would have been "very simple" for the drafters to have included it.

"I find that there is a contrary intention in the Fisheries Act as to whether or not the Criminal Code provisions would be included, therefore I find the allegations against the applicant are a nullity," said Judge Walsh.

"The charge against the applicant therefore is quashed. The applicant's motion is granted."  

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