A commercial fisherman—a repeat offender under the Fisheries Act of Canada—was given a lifetime fishing ban and was prohibited from ever being onboard a fishing vessel ever again, the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver ruled.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada on Monday announced the sentencing of Scott Stanley Matthew Steer, who had been convicted multiple times for fishing illegally over the last decade, the latest conviction coming May 14, 2021 in Vancouver Provincial Court.
Steer and two accomplices were arrested in the early morning hours of March 2, 2020. They were discovered by fisheries officers illegally fishing for crab in Vancouver Harbor, according to the “reasons for sentence” by the Honorable Peter H. Edelmann.
The fishermen led the officers on a high-speed chase through the harbor before stopping and being arrested on the vessel with approximately 250 live crabs, which were later released.
Steer was fishing without a license and fishing during a closed season, and was in possession of illegally caught crab. He was also found to be in breach of a court order prohibiting him from being on board a fishing vessel or in possession of fishing equipment.
In addition to the lifetime bans, Steer was sentenced to six months in jail and 75 hours of community work.
“The Judge additionally banned him from involvement in the purchasing or sale of fish, including brokering, for 5 years,” Fisheries and Oceans Canada stated. “And, he added a ban against Mr. Steer purchasing or selling a fishing vessel, and ordered the forfeiting of the aluminum vessel used in the illegal activity, with the approximate value of $50,000.”
Justice Edelmann documented Steer’s past convictions in his reasons for sentence.
“Mr. Steer was subject to multiple court orders prohibiting him from fishing and had been warned on more than one occasion that sentences for violating those orders would increase,” Edelman wrote. “In the course of the offense and his subsequent flight, Mr. Steer showed remarkable disregard for the safety of officers and the other users of a busy commercial harbor…
“The complete disregard Mr. Steer has persistently shown for fisheries laws over the course of many years raises substantial and legitimate concerns around his reliability as a broker of fish or owner of fishing vessels. In my view, Mr. Steer has shown, in no uncertain terms, that he cannot be trusted to adhere to fisheries regulations. The regulation of the commercial fishery relies on the trustworthiness and reliability of the participants in the fishery, including the owners of vessels and fish brokers. Given the clear pattern of disregard for fisheries regulations, I find Mr. Steer’s exclusion from the fishery is warranted.”
Art Demsky, detachment commander with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, told CBC that lifetime bans are rare and that in the past 30 years he has seen only one other in the Pacific region.
“There’s been no deterrent in sending him [Steer] to jail,” Demsky told CBC. “No fine amount would seem to be enough. At some point, you just have to say enough is enough and here is your lifetime ban.”
One of the two crew members, Sammy Williams, was also convicted for violations of the Fisheries Act and will be sentenced in 2022. The other crew member, Cristopher Schill, pleaded guilty in a separate trial and will also be sentenced in 2022.
Steer arrest photo courtesy of Nanaimo Royal Canadian Mounted Police; photo of the Marine Patrol Program Enforcement vessel, M. Charles, courtesy of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.