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DFO inspectors remove EU fishery observer from Portuguese trawler; captain cited for intimidation

In what looks to be the first citation of its kind issued by Fishery Officers with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), a charge of "observer intimidation" was issued against the master of the Portuguese factory-freezer trawler Nova Virgem Da Barca on Feb. 20th of this year. DFO only recently posted the info on its website.

The Portuguese factory-freezer trawler Nova Virgem Da Barca was built in 1988.

Fishery Officers from the Canadian Coast Guard ship Cygnus boarded and inspected the Portuguese trawler outside Canada’s 200-mile limit, and "safely" removed the European Union observer from the vessel, returning "them" to port in Canada.

The "notice of infringement" against the captain is considered "serious." It's also the first time the charge of observer intimidation is listed in DFO's breakdown of citations going back to 2004.

The Nova Virgem Da Barca — which was ordered to return to home port — was also charged in 2017 with using illegal, undersized mesh in the same area outside Canada's territorial waters.

Various fish stocks inside and outside Canada's 200-mile limit are governed by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), which is generally seen as toothless, unable to enforce the quotas it sets.

Under NAFO rules, illegal fishing citations issued against foreign factory-freezer trawlers on the continental shelf outside Canadian waters are not charged in Canadian courts.

Rather, it's up to the home country of the foreign trawler (in this case Portugal) to follow through with an investigation, and possible penalties/court action.

While the Canadian government goes after its own fishermen to the full extent of the law for fishery violations, other countries don't.

Fines/penalties often amount to a slap on the wrist. Read about it here.



DFO doesn't go out of its way to publicize illegal foreign fishing outside the 200-mile limit, even though such activity decimates migratory stocks once they cross the imaginary line in the water.

About seven months passed between the time DFO Fishery Officers cited the Portuguese trawler and when the department posted the information. Such delays are not new, and unacceptable.

As well, DFO only posts citations issued by DFO Fishery Officers, and not citations issued by other Fishery Officers with other NAFO-member countries.


Canada’s Commissioners to NAFO include Keith Sullivan, President of the FFAW-Unifor, and Alastair O'Reilly, Executive Director of the Northern Coalition Corporation, representing indigenous communities of Canada's Eastern Arctic and Labrador.

The commissioners are essentially Canada's “voice” at the NAFO table.

When was the last time you heard Sullivan publicly rip into Ottawa for NAFO's uselessness?

Ryan Cleary,


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