A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has issued a general caution to all commercial fishers when it comes to properly recording their catches.
“Fishers have to understand that the court will not treat the failure to make a log entry as a mere lapse in accounting. There is no wiggle room in the conditions; you are either in compliance or you are not,” ruled Justice Frank Edwards, in a decision released Wednesday, April 17.
Edwards made the ruling in overturning a provincial court judgement against a 36-year-old Halifax County fisherman who pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to properly maintain an up-to-date log book of his fishing activities.
The offence occurred in May 2017. The appeal was heard last month in Port Hawkesbury.
After a week-long halibut fishing trip, Casey Morgan Henneberry, captain of the R&S Venture, returned to shore and reported to federal fishery officers catching “20,000 or so pounds of halibut.”
When the catch was offloaded, the actual weight was 33,000 pounds.
At the time, Henneberry explained to officers he didn’t record the previous day’s catch in his logbook because he had worked into the night and was planning to complete the log prior to the vessel landing its catch.
“The sentence tacitly discounts the importance of conservation and protection of the halibut fishery. The sentence rewards the conduct of a repeat offender to the detriment of honesty fishers.” - Justice Frank Edwards
Edwards said Henneberry’s excuse demonstrated a cavalier and dismissive attitude towards a condition of his license.
“This is a captain who had been convicted of the very same offence just three years earlier. It is beyond belief that such a person would forget or be too tired to make a simple but essential log entry. The respondent (Henneberry), more than most, would know that the log entry was vital to his claim of having a legal halibut catch.”
Fishery officers estimated the total proceeds of sale of the catch to be $178,092.55. The value of the 13,000 pounds difference between the 20,000 pounds estimate and the 33,000 pounds actual was $69,376.33.
Henneberry was sentenced in provincial court to forfeit $20,000 of the catch along with a $10,000 fine. The conviction is now Henneberry’s fifth violation of fishery regulations.
The federal Crown appealed the sentence and Edwards overturned it, ruling the previous sentence was demonstrably unfit.
Edwards ordered Henneberry to forfeit $69,376.33 of the total catch of $178,000 along with a $10,000 fine.
In his decision, Edwards rejected a defence argument that failing to make logbook entries was akin to an accounting breach.
“That is not a mere administrative or accounting detail. It is a ‘condition’ of his licence. Failure to comply with that condition means that any halibut caught and not recorded were illegally caught,” said the judge.”
“A fisher who does not comply with the conditions of his/her licence is effectively unlicensed. He/she is not fishing legally. If you are not, as a minimum, the unrecorded portion of your catch is illegal and subject to forfeiture,” said the judge.
In commenting on the provincial court sentence, Edwards said it displayed no deterrence and sent the wrong message to Henneberry and others in a lucrative ,but threatened fishery.
“The sentence tacitly discounts the importance of conservation and protection of the halibut fishery. The sentence rewards the conduct of a repeat offender to the detriment of honesty fishers.”