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More illegal fishing 'notices' levelled against Portuguese draggers outside Canada's 200-mile limit

Canadian Fishery Officers have issued "notices of infringement" against the captains of two Portuguese factory-freezer trawlers with histories of illegal fishing outside Canadian waters on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

The Portuguese dragger Santa Christina anchored in Bay Bulls in July. Two months later and Canadian Fishery Officers issued three "notices of infringement" against the captain for illegal fishing on the Grand Banks.

The news hammers home — yet again — the fact that the enforcement regime on the high seas outside the 200-mile limit does not work as a deterrent against illegal foreign fishing of migratory stocks such as cod and flounder.

Various fish stocks inside and outside Canada's 200-mile limit are governed by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), which is made up of 13 contracting countries.

Under NAFO rules, Canadian Fishery Officers only issue "notices of infringement" against foreign draggers suspected of illegal fishing because it's up to a vessel's home country (in this case Portugal) to follow through with an investigation, and possible charges/penalties/court action.

On Sept. 26, 2021, Fishery Officers from the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Leonard J. Cowley boarded and inspected the Portuguese trawler Santa Christina, following which the captain was issued three "notices of infringement" for misreporting cod and redfish catches.

The information is only coming out now because Fisheries and Oceans often takes months to update its website on illegal fishing by foreign draggers.

Only three months earlier in July 2021 the Santa Christina had been anchored in Bay Bulls harbour after an outbreak of Covid-19 aboard the vessel. The ship's owner was later accused of disregarding the lives of his crew.

Other "notices of infringement" levelled in the past against the captain of the Santa Christina including misreporting redfish in August 2017, another misreporting charge in November 2012, and using undersized mesh in the cod end in December 2005.

Also on Sept. 26th, 2021, Fishery Officers with the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Cygnus boarded and inspected the Portuguese factory-freezer trawler Nova Virgem Da Barca on the tail of the Grand Banks, following which the captain was issued a notice of infringement for misreporting cod and flounder (American plaice) bycatches.

The Portuguese dragger Nova Virgem Da Barca.

It was only seven months earlier, on Feb. 20th, 2021, that the captain of the Nova Virgem Da Barca was issued a "notice of infringement" for observer intimidation by Canadian Fishery Officers aboard the Cygnus.

The Portuguese trawler was fishing redfish just outside Canadian waters when DFO enforcement officers boarded the ship, issued the "notice of infringement", and removed the European Union observer.

In July 2017 the captain of the Nova Virgem Da Barca was also issued two notices of infringement for using undersized mesh.

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.


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.

This past November SEA-NL called on the new federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to launch an immediate investigation of foreign fishing on the Grand Banks outside Canadian waters in light of allegations that ‘pirate’ factory-freezer trawlers are destroying the Grand Banks under the department’s nose.

Captain Christian Mathisen of the Faroese longliner Bordoyarnes said last fall that while DFO is aware of illegal activity by foreign draggers outside the 200-mile limit their hands are tied because Covid-19 protocols prevent boardings and inspections.

While Fisheries and Oceans was said to be aware of the illegal activity, Mathisen said enforcement officials have told him directly their hands are tied because Covid-19 protocols prevent boardings and inspections.

Mathisen said he tracked trawlers this past summer, and has “no doubt” they were illegally targeting various species such as cod, halibut, redfish, and white hake ("everything they can get").

Ryan Cleary,


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