WATCH: Suspects in shocking case of crab poaching are now facing hundreds of charges after trying to steal female and under-size crabs. Tess van Straaten reports.
Sooke Pier is a popular place to go crabbing and recreational crabbers here are outraged over a shocking case of poaching.
“I was totally disgusted when I found out about it,” says veteran crabber Dean Degirolamo.
RCMP seized 125 crabs over the long weekend and all but one were under the size limit.
“Some of them were pretty much just large baby crabs,” says Sooke RCMP S/Sgt. Jeff McArthur. “I guess if you have 125 of them you have enough for a meal.”
Even more disturbing, 110 of the crabs were female — making them all illegal to harvest.
“It makes me sad because there would be no more crabs left if they take the females,” says Victoria Lee, a child crabbing for the first time in Sooke on Monday.
“If they take all of them there’s no more left for everyone else,” adds dad Eric Lee.
RCMP caught four View Royal residents red-handed just after 1 am on Canada Day after an officer on routine patrol saw lights down by the pier and went to investigate.
“These people were clearly deliberately there under the cover of night to take a lot of crabs against the rules, against our limits and against all the fisheries laws,” says S/Sgt. McArthur.
Illegal crab poaching all too common on Vancouver Island
Unfortunately, RCMP say crab poaching is all too common a problem.
Police often catch people at the Sooke Pier taking crabs that are too small or females or exceeding the daily limit of four crabs per person (providing you have a license) but never in quantities like this case.
“We do come across it quite frequently but this is probably 100 more than what we have seen and caught anyone with previously!” S/Sgt. McArthur says.
RCMP are now looking into whether the poachers are associated with any restaurants or catering companies.
The suspects are each facing 234 charges — 110 counts of illegally possessing female crabs and 124 counts of possessing undersized crabs — under the Fisheries’ Act because each violation is a separate count.
That will likely translate into thousands of dollars in fines for each suspect.
Back at the pier, responsible crabbers are just hopping an example is made of the poachers.
“I heard they had a tank in their vehicle so how long have they been doing it for?” Dean Degirolamo. “I hope they nail them to the wall.”