By Steve Guntli
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and tribal police seized 674 illegal crab pots from the waters off Blaine.
Twelve WDFW agents and four officers from Tulalip Police conducted the two-day sweep. WDFW sergeant Russ Mullins led the investigation.
Mullins said the department tries to run a sweep for illegal Canadian crab pots in Boundary Bay and Semiahmoo Bay every other year.
“Typically, we have a problem with Canadian commercial fishermen operating in our waters without licenses,” he said. “This has been a historic problem for many years. By this time of the year, the Canadian portion of Boundary Bay is fished out, so fishermen illegally crab south of the border to increase productivity. It’s a tremendous drain on resources. We estimate there’s about 1,000 illegal pots out here, so we recover as many as we can.”
Agents began sweeping for illegal pots on September 17 and continued on through September 18, using Blaine Harbor and Semiahmoo Marina as refueling and storage stations. However, Mullins said, the work is just beginning from there.
“We still have to transfer all this gear to a temporary storage facility, so we’re not leaving them out on the dock in Blaine,” he said.
Fishing in a closed area and commercial fishing without a license carry felony charges, which could be punishable with prison time or hefty fines. While not many of these cases are prosecuted in the U.S., Mullins and his department pursue the cases they can and refer the rest to Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Mullins said fishermen frequently ask him what becomes of the confiscated crab pots.
“The pots go to Olympia, and they’re auctioned off through the state’s surplus website,” he said. “The really shabby ones are broken down and recycled, but most of them are perfectly usable and can be bought for a good price.”
Mullins added that processing can take some time, and the pots likely won’t show up on the auction website until next year.
For more information, visit wdfw.wa.gov.