Crime

Nearly 700 illegal crab pots seized in waters near Blaine

A legal crab pot is pulled from the water on Sept. 15, 2015, near Cherry Point. Two days later the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, with the help of Tulalip Police, began pulling nearly 700 illegal crab pots from the waters between Point Roberts and Peace Arch State Park. Most of the pots are believed to belong to Canadians illegally fishing U.S. waters.
A legal crab pot is pulled from the water on Sept. 15, 2015, near Cherry Point. Two days later the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, with the help of Tulalip Police, began pulling nearly 700 illegal crab pots from the waters between Point Roberts and Peace Arch State Park. Most of the pots are believed to belong to Canadians illegally fishing U.S. waters. The Bellingham Herald

Nearly 700 illegal crab pots were seized in the waters near Blaine in a two-day sweep conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Tulalip Police on Sept. 17 and 18.

Officers seized roughly 675 crab pots between Point Roberts and Peach Arch State Park — an area that includes portions of Semiahmoo Bay and Boundary Bay, said WDFW Sgt. Russ Mullins, who led the investigation.

Most of the illegal crab pots belonged to Canadian commercial fishermen. Mullins said when their waters have been fished out, Canadian fishermen will cross the border without proper licenses and try to intercept crabs moving north from U.S. waters. Similar sweeps have been done in the past by WDFW officers.

“The problem gets bad about every two years and we need to deal with it,” Mullins said.

Around half of the crabs taken illegally by Canadian fishermen would otherwise have been taken legally by tribal members, Mullins said. The WDFW had nearly a dozen officers and several boats participate in the sweep, and Tulalip Police provided a 43-foot boat and three officers for the effort.

“They’ve got as much skin in the game as we do when it comes to participating in these things,” Mullins said.

No arrests had been made as of Thursday, Sept. 24. The WDFW is working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to identify who the illegal crab pots belong to, and Mullins said he is confident arrests will be made soon.

The crab pots and gear, about 10 truckloads of it, will be taken to Olympia and auctioned off on the state’s surplus website.

Reach Wilson Criscione at 360-756-2803 or wilson.criscione@bellinghamherald.com.

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