Man holding fish

Eco-tour operator nets $75,000 in penalties

By Norman Galimski,  Prince Rupert Northern View, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Provincial Court in Prince Rupert has fined the general manager of Sandspit Adventures $75,000 for five offences in 2019 against the federal Fisheries Act and provincial Fish and Seafood Act.

On Dec. 7, Judge David Patterson ordered that Chad James Whiteside must pay a $45,000 fine by Dec. 31, 2024, for ‘buying, selling, trading, bartering or offering to buy, sell, trade or barter fish not caught and retained under the authority of a licence issued for the purpose of commercial fishing.’ As well, for other counts, he was ordered to pay $20,000 by Dec. 7, 2022, and a further $10,000 by Dec. 7, 2023.

Sandpit Adventures was owned at the time by 1369277 Alberta Ltd., an Alberta company that has been registered in British Columbia as an extraprovincial company. The fishing lodge, located on Haida Gwaii in Sandspit, conducts fishing and eco-tours through Skidegate Inlet to Cartwright Sound.

Whiteside, who was the general manager since 2017, has since purchased the company, in January 2020,

Fishery officers found in 2019 that fish caught by the lodge’s patrons, at their request and sometimes at the direction of staff, were prepared by the kitchen and fed to guests contrary to the Fishery (General) Regulations section 35(2).

Officers further determined, in addition to Sandspit Adventures allowing their guests to eat recreationally caught fish at mealtime, the company did not have a proper labelling and storage system in place, as required by the Fish and Seafood Licencing Regulations, resulting in multiple offences under the Fish and Seafood Act.

Specifically, recreationally caught fish was sometimes not properly labelled with the species of fish, date of processing and the name of the fisher who caught it.

Fishing guides were found to have brought back fish and to have stored them at the lodge for the kitchen’s use at the direction of the owner.

Patterson considered Whiteside’s “moral blameworthiness” to be “middle of the scale” because the judge concluded the man did not set out to break the law, but neither did he attempt to reach out to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to ensure Sandspit Adventures’ policies and practices were in keeping with the federal Acts.

“I was horrible with my staff. I didn’t monitor them [or] how they were catching their fish,” Whiteside testified at an Aug. 11 hearing.

“I accept that Mr. Whiteside feels horrible about breaking the law and that Sandspit Adventures did so out of ignorance and Mr. Whiteside’s failure to properly research what he was getting himself into,” Patterson said. “Mr. Whiteside clearly did not know what the actual rules were for operating a fishing and eco-tour business such as Sandspit Adventures. In other words, there was a failure to exercise due diligence.”

“The damage and harm done in this particular case, what the offences committed by Mr. Whiteside did, was enable commercial level supplies to be taken out of the recreational supply and then supplied into the restaurant run by Sandspit Adventures.”

The result of the offences gave Sandspit Adventures a competitive advantage over other fishing lodges in Haida Gwaii, which otherwise would have cost them thousands of dollars spent on purchasing commercial fish, the judge added.

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