Warning issued about rise in illegal shellfish harvesting near Nanaimo

Warning issued about rise in illegal shellfish harvesting near Nanaimo

Photo/Fisheries and Oceans Canada – Confiscated clams

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is sounding the alarm over a spike in illegal shellfish harvesting, particularly near Nanaimo and around the Sunshine Coast.

The agency says extreme low-tides during the daytime and hot, sunny weather are luring people out to harvest on beaches including ones that are contaminated and closed for paralytic shellfish poisoning or sanitary closures.

“Between June 13 and 17, area detachments seized almost 3,000 lbs of clams and issued $600 in tickets plus Powell River fishery officers issued $2,300 in tickets for over limit of Horse Clams,” a press release reads.

The agency also says that there are serious health concerns involved, not only for personal consumption, but also if large volumes of illegally harvested and potentially contaminated clams make their way into the consumer sales market and restaurants.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada reminds the public that:

  • Selling or buying seafood illegally may result in significant fines under the Fisheries Act, and/or fines under Provincial legislation. If you are caught purchasing, selling, trading or bartering seafood caught in a fishery which is closed or where sales are not authorized, you could face fines as high as $100,000, and/or up to two years in jail.
  • Buying fish over the Internet may be unlawful and a threat to your health.
  • If you see any illegal fisheries activity or illegal fish sales online, report it as soon as possible at: Observe, Record and Report (ORR) 1-800-465-4336, or your local DFO office.

It also wants the public to be aware that:

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada is strongly advising shellfish harvesters in British Columbia to check whether fishing areas are open and shellfish are safe to consume before harvesting them and to take extra precautions during warm weather.
  • Consumers should be aware of some potential food safety issues associated with bivalve shellfish (i.e. clams, oysters, scallops, mussels, cockles), and other molluscan shellfish (i.e. whelks and periwinkles).
  • These animals are highly sensitive to the quality of their marine environment. Because they feed themselves by filtering microscopic organisms from the water, harmful bacteria, viruses and biotoxins from their surroundings can build up in their tissues and cause illness in people who consume them.
  • It is essential that bivalve shellfish are harvested from open areas and handled properly to minimize the risk of food borne illnesses.
  • Only purchase shellfish from trusted retailers and restaurants who can confirm the source of shellfish, and that they were harvested from an open area. Shellfish should be iced, refrigerated or frozen after harvest or purchase, during transport and until they are ready to be eaten.
  • DFO posts information regarding general biotoxin safety, and updates the coastwide list of openings & closures throughout the week based on recommendation from Environment Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

There is a toll-free, 24-hour recorded information line at 1-866-432-3474

 Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s shellfish contamination webpage: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/contamination/index-eng.htm

To find information on a specific area consult the Sports Fishing Guide – British Columbia http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/index-eng.html

Ben O'HaraBen O'Hara

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