R v. V.F. Pacific Offshore Fisheries Ltd. and Frank Gordon Melan

In Fish Cases, Miscellaneous, Offences on (Updated )

This case involved an accused who was charged with a number of offences which included an averment that he was fishing under the authority of a fishing licence. At trial the Crown entered into evidence an unsigned certified copy of a licence produced from the records of the D.F.O. licence unit. This licence contained a term that it was not valid unless signed by the licence holder, vessel owner or operator. In addition the Crown led evidence from a fisheries officer who inspected the original licence aboard the vessel and was satisfied with it, but did not say whether or not it was signed at the time of inspection.

At the conclusion of the trial, the Defence argued, amongst other things, that the Crown’s case should be dismissed for lack of proof that the offence took place under the authority of a licence. The court rejected this argument based upon a presumption of regularity and a presumption that the licence holder complied with the regulations and signed it. It ruled that in absence of evidence to the contrary, the Crown need only prove that the licence was issued to the vessel owner.

With respect to proof that the vessel was fishing in a closed area, the court rejected evidence of location based upon the pilot house log and fishing logs because inconsistencies between the two showed that they were not reliable. In addition, the Crown failed to enter evidence that the area in question was closed to fishing.

Editor’s note: For a contrary case on the proof of validity of licence issue, see R. v. Frederick Chandler Kyle Nelson [11 May 2004) Unreported Prince Rupert Prov. Ct. file No. 23728 (Seidemann III Prov. Ct. Judge) (digested herein)