A Prince Rupert commercial diver has received the largest fine to-date under Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations, announced Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region.
On July 22, 2022, in Prince Rupert Provincial Court, the Honourable Judge Jeffrey Campbell ordered Thomas Gould to pay a fine of $12,000 for contravention of Canada’s Fisheries Act, section 7 of the Marine Mammal Regulations. This is the largest fine recorded to-date for this kind of an offence.
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.
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.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has a mandate to protect and conserve marine resources and to prosecute offenders under the Fisheries Act. It ensures and promotes compliance with the Act and other laws and regulations through a combination of land, air, and sea patrols, as well as education and awareness activities.
Image: photo used as part of evidence presented in court.