Two commercial boats were seized and at least four people arrested today in a sting operation involving the U.S. Coast Guard, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the State of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The crews of the Canadian vessels are charged with illegally harvesting Dungeness crab in U.S. waters near Blaine, WA, in Boundary Bay.
More than 500 pounds of crab were found on the boats Sea Star and Song Be out of Cresent Beach, British Columbia, Canada. Members from Coast Guard Station Bellingham, Wash., the Coast Guard Cutter Mariposa and Department of Fish and Wildlife worked together to recover close to 200 crab pots which were illegally set in U.S. waters. The crew of the 27-foot Sea Star has been charged three times by U.S. and Canada in the past for illegally crabbing in U.S. waters. Crews from the Sea Star and 17-foot Song Be face maximum Canadian penalties of a $100,000 fine, jail time, seizures of gear and loss of their boat.
According to Sgt. Ralph Woods of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, in a recent study in an unpublished report, biologists have determined that the Dungeness crab population in Boundary Bay is in serious decline. The specific reasons for this decline are as yet to be determined, but any illegal taking of Dungeness crab has a serious impact to the remaining population.
Efforts to solve this illegal activity have resulted in numerous arrests and seizures of fishermen and their crabbing gear in the past year.
[For pool video of the arrests contact Tom Butterworth at KOMO 4 (206) 443-4145. For pool print accounts of the arrests contact Seattle Times at (206) 464-2204]