P.E.I. fishermen call for more officers to combat illegal fishing

The Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association says there needs to be more fishery officers to combat illegal fishing.
The PEIFA is asking Fisheries and Oceans Canada for more fisheries officers. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

The vice president of the Prince County Fishermen's Association is renewing a push to have more fisheries officers in West Prince.

Shelton Barlow, who fishes lobster out of Howard's Cove, made the comments earlier this week at the association's annual general meeting in O'Leary.

"It is a large area," Barlow said. "I'd like to see officers out there at every wharf. When you come into the wharf, you'd like to see an officer now and then to keep you in check. We need a lot more."

Barlow believes there are eight officers in West Prince responsible for an area stretching from North Cape to Victoria.

Shelton Barlow of the Prince County Fishermen's Association said there needs to be more DFO fisheries officers on the wharf and in waters in West Prince. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

A spokesperson for Fisheries and Oceans Canada said for operational and for security reasons, she could not comment on the specific number of officers working in a particular area of P.E.I.

However, Carole Saindon said DFO is responsible for managing 12 harbours in Western P.E.I. and the department has the flexibility to deploy officers from one area to another on a case-by-case basis.

"The Conservation and Protection branch has access to various kinds of vehicles, vessels and aircraft to conduct patrols from the water, from the ground and from the air," explained Saindon. "Officers also work closely with members of the Canadian Coast Guard, the RCMP or other municipal police and with provincial enforcement officers."

More officers and more patrols

The president of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association said the group has had ongoing discussions with DFO about enforcement numbers on the Island.

"Fishermen are doing an awful lot of stuff regarding conservation of the resource and protection of the resource, so we'd like to see that compliment shared with DFO,"  Bobby Jenkins said. "We're not asking to put a helicopter in Alberton for six months of the year or one up in Souris. We're just asking for more officers and more patrol."

He added, "Our core fishers that PEIFA represents, we depend an awful lot on lobster. I think it's very important that that resource is looked after. and protected by every means possible." 

A call for more personnel and an increase in enforcement will be discussed when fishermen from across the province gather next month for the PEIFA's annual general meeting. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Barlow said more fisheries officers are not only needed on the wharf, but out on the water as well.

"We need patrol boats," Barlow said. "If you see a patrol boat coming, you know you're going to be checking twice. You know someone is coming after you.... you want to know they're out there looking after you."

"We're spending money in Prince County and we want our fishery protected," Barlow added.

P.E.I. minister of fisheries, Robert Henderson, says he found out Tuesday that existing rules for crab fishermen meant to protect North Atlantic right whales will also apply to lobster fishermen. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Barlow moved and received unanimous support from members of the PCFA for more officers in West Prince at this week's AGM. It will be on the agenda when fishermen gather in Charlottetown for the PEIFA's annual general meeting next month.

"It's up to the federal government to look after on the water," Barlow said. "They should be looking after the resource because they're in charge of the resource. We buy our license from them to go fishing and they've got to look after it."

"Well be meeting with DFO in the future," added Jenkins. "Our ask again will be more personnel and more protection and more dialogue with them. We'll continue to fight for more officers on P.E.I. for our membership."

DFO said it encourages fishing associations to contact them to discuss concerns or share recommendations and for anyone to report suspicious activity to their nearest office or to call Crime Stoppers.