Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Prince Rupert based commercial diver fined 12,000 dollars for violation of Marine Mammal regulations

Getting too close to Marine life near Prince Rupert has
resulted in a significant fine for  a local dive
(photo from evidence collected by DFO)

A July court case has put the spotlight on the need to give Marine Mammals some distance and has left a Prince Rupert based commercial diver 12,000 dollars lighter in his bank account.

An information release from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans notes of the July 22nd judgement from the Prince Rupert Court House, which saw Judge Jeffrey Campbell order local diver Thomas Gould to pay the $12,000 fine for his contravention of the Canada's Fisheries Act, Section 7 which covers Marine Mammals.

In the summary of the case, DFO noted the following:

The sentence stems from a incident on April 25, 2020, when Mr. Gould, a scuba diver and owner of a commercial dive vessel, Ice Cube, knowingly interacted with a pod of seven Northern Resident Killer Whales near Prince Rupert Harbour. 

Evidence collected by fishery officers established that the dive vessel had attempted to motor ahead of the whale pod several times, a practice known as “leap-frogging”. It was also determined that Mr. Gould, in full dive gear, entered the water two different times in close proximity to the whales. Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations outlines minimum approach distances for whales, dolphins and porpoises across the country. 

In British Columbia, all vessels must keep 200 m away from killer whales in BC and the Pacific Ocean and keep 400 m away from all killer whales in southern BC coastal waters between Campbell River and just north of Ucluelet (June 1 – May 31). Under the Marine Mammal Regulations, it is also illegal to swim, dive or interact with marine mammals.

DFO notes that The killer whale pod identified in this incident has been returning to the Prince Rupert area every spring for over a decade. Signage is posted in the area to aid boaters in determining the mandatory approach distances. 

More on the investigation and court case can be reviewed here.

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