Hefty fishing fine set aside

Judge orders new trial for commercial fisherman fined $120,000 for possessing too much halibut and rockfish

A new trial has been ordered for a commercial fisherman who was fined $120,000 for unlawfully possessing halibut and rockfish.

Gerald Dalum, 67, received the hefty fine last June in Campbell River provincial court after being found guilty on four fisheries charges.

At trial, the Crown contended that Dalum was carrying approximately 31,000 pounds of halibut over his quota as well an excess of various rockfish, when he docked in Port Hardy in March 2007.

Dalum’s lawyer had argued that his client had intended to buy extra quota from two other fishermen prior to heading out to sea, but they backed out of the deal.

By that time, Dalum was already fishing and had exceeded his personal quota.

As an alternative, he thought he could purchase the extra quota from SM Products, a fish buying company, something he had done in the past.

The company did buy the fish, but did not sell Dalum the extra quota.

As a result, Dalum was later charged with nine violations following an investigation by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Five of those charges were dropped by the Crown, but Dalum was found guilty on four counts by Judge Brian Saunderson.

“In short, Mr. Dalum took a calculated risk in purchasing insufficient quota,” the judge said in a written decision. “One of the guiding principles of the Plan states that, ‘Fishers will be individually accountable for their catch.’ That is a clear warning that non-compliance with the fisheries regulations will result in sanctions.”

The judge fined the veteran commercial fisherman $120,000, but last week B.C. Supreme Court Justice Loryl Russell allowed Dalum’s appeal and ordered a new trial.

In a written decision, the Justice Russell found Judge Saunderson’s decision confusing.

“…there is nothing in the reasons to indicate to me why the trial judge preferred the facts as asserted by the Crown over that of the defence,” she wrote. “I find that I cannot make a proper determination on whether an error has occurred without truly understanding what the trial judge has decided and why.”

It’s unknown if the Crown will try Dalum a second time.