The Department of Fisheries and Oceans have thwarted illegal netting off Hughes Brook as recent as last year, and Ron Burton wants public assistance to continue doing so.
In 2013, four individuals were caught netting the Class 0 salmon river, according to the area chief of conservation and protection, as a result of an investigation stemming from a public tip.
Burton said three of the people were fined $3,000 each and are prohibited from possessing a licence or being on a boat on inland waters for a year. The fourth person is still before the court, he said.
Meanwhile, there was another conviction on Hughes Brook last year, with a person receiving a $500 fine for illegal fishing. Burton said that incident was an angler using a hook other than an artificial fly. That person is also prohibited from fishing inland waters for a year.
Poaching on the small river on the north shore of the Bay of Islands was raised as a concern during the annual general meeting of SPAWN (the Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland).
Burton stressed the Department takes poaching very seriously, and has some 200 fisheries officers, fishery guardians and aboriginal fishery guardians in the region combating the crime. While they also work with partner agencies, such as the provincial fish and wildlife enforcement, it is vital that people report illegal activity.
“Our eyes and ears can’t be everywhere,” he said. “Although we have a lot of people working very hard to keep the poachers out of the rivers, and let the anglers in to enjoy angling the species, that information we get is very important. We do react to it.”
The area chief would not say whether there are any active investigations pertaining to Hughes Brook. If there was, he said saying so might jeopardize it. He said the river system is a part of the big picture of protecting all salmon and trout populations in the province.
The Class 0 river is a catch-and-release only for salmon because of the limited population. Although he would not speculate whether that could lead to more poaching, he acknowledged it makes preventing and deterring illegal fishing that much more important.
Burton encourages people to contact Crimestoppers 1-800-222-8477 or local department officers to report illegal fishing activity.