B.C. north coast fishing charter owner fined $10K for feeding seals

Curtis Ireland of Prince Rupert sentenced in June for offences committed in 2020

Video image of seals being fed dockside at Cow Bay Marina on Aug. 12, 2020. (Provided image)

Video image of seals being fed dockside at Cow Bay Marina on Aug. 12, 2020. (Provided image)

A Prince Rupert fishing charter owner has been fined $10,000 for violating federal marine mammal regulations by feeding seals.

DFO fishery officers originally charged Curtis Ireland, owner of West Coast Renegade Fishing Charters, after receiving notification from the Prince Ruper Port Authority in 2020, a Fisheries and Oceans Canada press release on July 25 stated.

An investigation determined that Ireland had indeed violated the regulations when he was cleaning fish dockside at the Cow Bay Marina after charters on July 8 and August 12, 2020 and entertained his guests by feeding the seals.

Ireland pleaded guilty to the charges in the fall of 2022 and was sentenced on June 19 by Prince Rupert provincial court Judge David Patterson.

“In his findings, Justice Patterson noted that Mr. Ireland, as the owner/operator of a charter boat company, had a duty to know and follow the law, and his actions over multiple dates showed a pattern of disdain for the law and an indifference to the consequences for the seals,” the DFO press release stated.

Prior to 2018 regulations only prohibited “the disturbance” of marine animals, but the definition of disturbance was vague making enforcement difficult.

That year, an amendment to the regulation clearly defined disturbance as: “approaching a marine mammal to, or to attempt to, feed it; swim with it or interact with it; move it or entice or cause it to move from the immediate vicinity in which it is found; separate it from members of its group or go between it and a calf; trap it or its group between a vessel and the shore or between a vessel and one or more other vessels; or tag or mark it.”

The amendment also prescribed distance limits for observing whales and orcas.

People who violate the regulations face fines of up to $500,000.

The rationale behind the law is to protect wildlife from becoming habituated to human interaction, which can be detrimental to both animals and humans.