Fisherman handed lifetime ban following midnight poaching of hundreds of crabs in Vancouver harbour

January 22, 2022
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A B.C. Supreme Court judge has banned Nanaimo, B.C., fisherman Scott Stanley Matthew Steer from fishing for life.

The sentence was delivered on Nov. 12, 2021, and it is the first lifetime ban for a Pacific region fisherman in more than a decade.

In May, Steer was found guilty of five offences under the Fisheries Act.

Just after midnight on March 2, 2020, officials found Steer illegally fishing for crab in the Vancouver harbour after they were tipped off by Vancouver SeaBus authorities.

Steer was advised to stop by a marine patrol fisheries enforcement vessel but took off in his boat, according to court documents.

Following a high-speed pursuit, he was arrested, along with two of his crew members.

His boat, a truck and a trailer were all seized and officials found around 250 live crabs on board, which were later released back into the water.

“In the course of the offence and his subsequent flight, Mr. Steer showed remarkable disregard for the safety of officers and the other users of a busy commercial harbour,” said Supreme Court Justice Peter Edelmann in his sentencing decision.

Along with the lifetime ban, Steer’s sentence includes:

  • A prohibition from being aboard a fishing vessel.
  • Six months in jail, minus time served.
  • 75 hours of community work.
  • Three years probation, which includes 12 months under a curfew.
  • A ban against purchasing or selling a fishing vessel.
  • The forfeiture of Steer’s $50,000 aluminum boat, which was used in the illegal crab poaching.

Steer is a repeat offender and is currently awaiting two other trials in Nanaimo for alleged Fisheries Act violations.

In the past, he has been convicted on multiple counts and has faced judicial penalties, including a 24-month fishing prohibition, jail time and significant fines.

Since 2008, there have been 15 different Fisheries and Oceans Canada files on Steer.

“Given Mr. Steer’s persistent conduct in relation to the commercial fishery over the course of many years, his permanent exclusion from the fishery is warranted,” said Edelmann while handing out the lifetime ban.

Sammy Williams, one of Steer’s crew members, was also convicted on Nov. 30, 2021, for violations under the Fisheries Act. He will be sentenced in the new year.

The second crew member, Christopher Schill, pleaded guilty in a separate trial and is awaiting sentencing.

Poaching can lead to over-harvesting

Art Demsky, detachment commander with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, says lifetime bans are very rare.

In the past 30 years, he says, he has only seen one other lifetime ban in the Pacific region.

In the case of Steer, previous penalties proved ineffective at discouraging him from reoffending.

“There’s been no deterrent in sending him to jail. No fine amount would seem to be enough,” said Demsky. “At some point, you just have to say enough is enough and here is your lifetime ban.”

Illegal fishing makes proper resource management incredibly difficult, according to Demsky, adding it can lead to over-harvesting.

As well, in B.C., only crab caught under a licence can be purchased or sold and must first be properly processed and inspected through a licensed plant to ensure it is safe to eat.

“It impacts everybody,” said Demsky.

He says anyone with information about suspected violations can call Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s violation reporting line at 1-800-465-4336.

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