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Nova Scotia MP Rick Perkins (Photo: CPAC)

N.S. MP says more enforcement needed on Elver poachers

By Tara Clow Apr 18, 2023 | 11:57 AM

An MP is speaking out about a decision to temporarily shut down elver fisheries in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada recently closed them for the next 45 days, due to conservation and safety concerns.

Conflict in the industry has escalated to violence and threats, risking the safety of harvesters, the public and officers.

Nova Scotia Conservative MP Rick Perkins says DFO has not enforced the law on poachers for the past five years.

“The result is every year there are more and more poachers on the river. I was out on Saturday night after she (the minister) closed the fishery and I was standing next to poachers on the river. The only people that are off the river right now are the license holders,” says Perkins.

Perkins says elvers which are a type of baby eel and are the most expensive fish there is by weight.

“You can catch them with a little net, that you skim your pool with. If you can catch that, there’s $5,000. I can catch my full four-year salary in one week. It’s crazy,” he says.

Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray says she understands shutting down the fishery is difficult for legitimate harvesters, but she claims they did everything they could to make sure compliance enforcement was beefed up.

“We doubled it over 740 enforcement operations. We’ve had numerous arrests. It’s simply too dangerous for people, as well as my concern about the stock because this is part of the lifecycle of the American eel., and that is a species at risk. So, unfortunately, that was the next step I had to take.”

(Photo: Courtesy of CPAC)

Perkins adds there is still time to fix this.

“The minister can reopen the fishery for the legal license holders and enforce the law and make sure that poachers who are on the river, they arrest them and seize their vehicles and pursue legal charges. There’s a lot of fishing left. We’re only two weeks into the season,” he says.

Murray says poachers are coming in from outside the Maritimes or even outside of Canada.

“It was just a huge escalation of an illegal fishery. It was simply too dangerous to let this continue and we’ll have to really reflect on how this fishery is managed for next year,” says Murray.

“We now have time to do some consultation and analysis on that. I was not prepared to take the risk of harm to human life, which was certainly a possibility.”


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