A BC man who pleaded guilty to four counts related to breaching Canadian and US fishing laws has been given a three-year deadline to pay $160,000 worth of fines.
Judge Kimberly Arthur-Leung considered Hoan Trung Do’s fishing activities in Boundary Bay between July 15, 2018 and Oct. 31, 2020 before determining he’d “knowingly broke the law for financial gain and to the decision of the environment,” according to a recent provincial court decision.
The ruling explains that Do has been fishing since 1999 and therefore knew the regulations surrounding Boundary Bay, which is described as “a pocket of the Salish Sea bordering the joint Canadian and (US) waters.”
“For years, the courts have expressed concern about overfishing and the fishing bound by the American waters,” Arthur-Leung wrote in his decision. “Do’s motive was for economic advantage over law-abiding fishers.”
Do’s violations are related to crab harvesting, according to the ruling. He pleaded guilty to fishing more than 150 traps, a limit established by the Fisheries Act, between July 15 and Nov. 30 of 2018, and again during the same period the following year.
For those two counts, Arthur-Leung ordered Do to pay $70,000 and $50,000 fines, respectively.
The judge also imposed a fine of $20,000 each on two counts related to Do’s use of a “vessel that is subject to the jurisdiction of Canada” to fish outside the country’s waters. He pleaded guilty to doing so between the periods of July 15 and Nov. 30 in both 2019 and 2020.
‘THE HONOR SYSTEM IS FAILING’
As outlined in the decision, at the beginning of the season, there are more crabs on the US side of Boundary Bay than there are off the waters of Delta, but the Canadian fishery opens later than its southern counterpart.
“There has been a longstanding problem with Canadian fishermen operating in American water,” reads the ruling.
“Both myself and many of my judicial colleagues for years have repeatedly echoed concerns that our waters are vast and there are a very limited number of fisheries officers on our lakes, rivers and oceans to patrol such vast bodies of water. Regrettably, the honor system is failing,” Arthur-Leung writes.
According to the decision, Do told the court that conservation officers did nothing when he reported seeing other commercial fishers violating the regulations, which led him to believe it was acceptable behavior.
“Two wrongs do not make it right. A responsible fisher in the commercial industry should, at the very core, recognize the importance of our water habitat and resources, and Mr. Do knowingly took advantage of the frailties of the system. That is aggravating,” wrote Arthur-Leung.
She explained that Do’s motive is “part and parcel” of the final issue relevant to his sentence, which the Crown deemed must be “sufficient to maintain the integrity of the regulatory scheme so that the message is clear to everyone that these regulations are there to be complied with, and if flouted, not recklessly regarded.”
A joint submission from the Crown and defense lawyers recommended that Do be given a three-year deadline be pay the full fine, which the judge admits she is not comfortable with, but will accept nonetheless.
As the co-owner of a property valued at $1.8 million, the judge reasons Do has the means to pay the fines on a more immediate timeline.
On top of the fines, Do must also forfeit his 10 crab traps.
The judge concludes by admonishing Do’s actions, which she says both harmed the environment and undermined the joint cooperation between Canadian and US governments in terms of preserving and maintaining crab stocks.
“For a person fishing since 1999, he should have and ought to have known better,” reads the ruling.