More officers to watch for oyster poaching

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans will have two extra officers to enforce regulations in the oyster fishery this year.

Fishermen's tips still the best defence, says enforcement head

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans will have two extra officers to enforce regulations in the oyster fishery this year.

It's a request that's been made at oyster meetings for years. Clifford Bernard, an oyster fisherman from Tyne Valley and the head of the P.E.I. Shellfish Association, told CBC News Wednesday that oysters smaller than three inches are disappearing from the fishing grounds, even though they're not supposed to be harvested.

"We need a lot of protection, and we don't have the protection," said Bernard.

"I fish this all spring in Bedeque and I never saw an officer on the water — in 10 weeks!"

Fishermen need to be vigilant

The DFO's Bobby MacInnis, head of enforcement for P.E.I., has heard the complaints before, and not just from oyster fishermen. MacInnis has just 20 officers to monitor all fisheries in the province, and during the spring oyster harvest he's also having to watch the lobster fishery.

There will be more patrols this year, MacInnis said, but he doesn't believe that's the best way to catch poachers.

"The best information that we get, in any of the fisheries that we enforce, is from the fishers themselves," he said.

MacInnis said DFO gets an average of two tips of illegal activity a week during the oyster harvest, which have led to most of the 12 oyster violations DFO successfully prosecuted last year.