Owner of N.S. lobster pound damaged by mob fined $20K for not disclosing 2018 sales
Eric Louis Thibault owns New Edinburgh, N.S., lobster pound
The owner of a lobster pound that was the scene of protests, vandalism and arson last week over Mi'kmaw fishing in southwest Nova Scotia has been ordered to pay $20,000 for not disclosing lobster sales.
Eric Louis Thibault pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of making a false statement to fisheries inspectors two years ago about more than $100,000 in commercial lobster sales from his pound in New Edinburgh, Digby County.
Thibault, who owns Bay of Fundy Finest Seafood Distributors, was not present in Digby provincial court. Lawyers called in by phone.
"It's a serious offence," federal Crown prosecutor Marian Fortune-Stone told Judge Tim Landry.
She said the future of the "particularly lucrative" fishery relies on accurate information from the processing industry.
"This information is critical for assessing and forecasting stocks, sustainability and viability and the development of management plans for conservation," Fortune-Stone said.
A week ago, the pound was damaged and a van lit on fire after the facility was surrounded by hundreds of commercial fishermen unhappy with the moderate livelihood fishery launched last month by Sipekne'katik First Nation. The pound was being used by Mi'kmaw fishermen to store their catches.
The court case dates back to inspections in the summer of 2018 by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans at the New Edinburgh pound.
The Crown said Thibault did not disclose commercial lobster sales on Aug. 2 and 6, 2018, for which he was paid $54,377.
The department also seized $57,910 worth of lobster on Aug. 9 that Thibault had sold, but had yet to receive payment. Fortune-Stone said the sale was not disclosed to fisheries officer Erica Cross.
The source of the lobster was not identified in court.
Thibault had been facing three charges under the Fisheries Act. In a joint recommendation to the court, the Crown dropped two related charges.
Thibault did not make a statement to the court.
His lawyer, Don Murray, told the court, "Mr. Thibault was in default of his obligation under that section of the act."
Thibault was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay another $10,000 to the federal government's environmental damages fund.
The conviction was a surprise to Sipekne'katik Chief Mike Sack, who said Tuesday he wasn't aware that Thibault had been facing charges.
"That's news to me," he told reporters in the nearby community of Saulnierville.
Asked if the lobster moving through the pound in the summer of 2018 was harvested by members of the band, Sack said: "I don't know. I couldn't comment on that sorry."
Last week, he disclosed the band was considering purchasing the pound in New Edinburgh. He said Tuesday the band was still doing "due diligence" on the prospective purchase.
Company records list Thibault as president, director and secretary of Bay of Fundy Finest Seafood Distributors, which was identified in court as owner of the New Edinburgh pound.
Property records show the property, at 903 Riverside Rd., is owned by 3300807 N.S. Limited, which has Louise Thibault listed as president and has the same address as Bay of Fundy Finest Seafood Distributors.