SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – A Tignish fisherman and the independent observer hired to monitor him have been charged with fraud in relation to a Department of Fisheries and Oceans research project.
The fisherman, Glen Joseph McRae, 63, of Tignish has pleaded guilty to and been sentenced for one count under the Fisheries Act of not complying with the terms of his fishing licence and one count under the Criminal Code of defrauding the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association of $2,400.
The observer, William Arthur Eldershaw, 61, of Montrose, pleaded guilty to and was sentenced for one count under the Fisheries Act of providing false information during the course of his duties. He also pleaded guilty to one count under the Criminal Code of defrauding his former employer, Biorex Inc., of $442, which he will be sentenced for on Feb. 8.
The charges against both men are from the fall of 2015.
The program they are charged with defrauding is a sentinel fishery, which is a limited fishery sanctioned by DFO to help gather data on fish stocks and their environments. Cod was the target species in this case.
DFO covers the cost of the program and contracts the work out to local fishing associations, which hires individual captains to do the work.
According to the facts read in court, McRae, a life-long fisherman, was successful in having his name drawn in 2015 as one of a small number of captains on P.E.I. to be hired under the program. Captains are paid a set amount per day to use longlines to fish for cod. They are allowed to sell what they catch, but that profit is deducted from their set pay. Hired captains are required to have an independent observer on their boat to ensure the validity of the catch and collect scientific data. Eldershaw was assigned to be McRae’s observer.
The men were charged after a fisheries officer visually noted McRae’s boat tied up at the dock on Sept. 25 and 26, 2015, days which the data they submitted to researchers and DFO said the vessel was out fishing.
McRae later told investigating officers that he completed six days of the fishing he’d been hired to do but not the final two. Originally he had some volunteer help lined up, but when that person fell ill he had to hire help. That expense coupled with small catch numbers meant he was losing money by continuing to fish.
McRae approached Eldershaw with his situation and the two agreed not to go out fishing for the final two days, instead falsifying their records to make it appear they had, but caught nothing. McRae took the temperature probe attached to his gear and stuck it in the freezer to simulate it being underwater.
The deception ensured McRae was still paid his set daily amount for supposedly having attempted to fish.
He was sentenced to four months in conditional custody in relation to the fraud and ordered to pay a fine of $1,500 for the Fisheries Act charge.
Eldershaw was also fined $1,500 for his Fisheries Act charge.