'This was pure dirt'

Terry Roberts
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Harbour Main fisherman says someone stole crab from his pots

Despite the dense fog, Tom Dalton and his crew of two were having a productive morning on the waters of Conception Bay Tuesday.

They had hauled roughly 2,400 pounds of snow crab aboard their 35-foot boat, the Sea Run, and were about to check their fifth and final fleet of 30 pots at about noon.

Harbour Main fisherman Tom Dalton stands on his 35-foot fishing vessel, Sea Run, Thursday. Dalton says someone took hundreds of pounds of crab from his pots earlier this week. - Photo by Terry Roberts/The Telegram

Despite the dense fog, Tom Dalton and his crew of two were having a productive morning on the waters of Conception Bay Tuesday.

They had hauled roughly 2,400 pounds of snow crab aboard their 35-foot boat, the Sea Run, and were about to check their fifth and final fleet of 30 pots at about noon.

When the first pot came up empty, with the bait skiver missing and the draw string in the bottom of the pot released, Dalton sensed something wasn't right.

His initial fears proved correct - all 30 pots were empty and obviously tampered with.

He believes someone stole the estimated 600 pounds of crab that should have been in the pots.

He estimates his loss at about $800, with crab selling for $1.35 per pound.

"I've never seen anything like this in all my years of fishing," the veteran Harbour Main harvester said.

"This was pure dirt," he added.

Working aboard his boat Thursday morning, Dalton spoke calmly as he expressed his disappointment and frustration.

"It's not a good feeling hauling up a string of pots filled with nothing but water," he said.

Could this have been a mistake?

Could another harvester have hauled the pots, thinking they were his own?

Not a chance, said Dalton, whose gear was set about five miles to the northwest of Harbour Main, about halfway to Bell Island.

Each fleet of pots is attached to a numbered buoy that matches the vessel's CFV number, which is unique to each harvester.

And most harvesters mark their gear locations with GPS, Dalton explained.

Dalton believes it was simply a case of one harvester stealing from another, in defiance of an unwritten fisherman's code that goes back many generations.

"Fellows are after telling me there are fellows in the area who would do something like this," Dalton said.

Dalton has a quota of 14,700 pounds of crab, and expects to catch it all by late next week. He also fishes lobster, capelin, herring, mackerel, squid and cod.

He's been fishing for 37 years, and is the only harvester left in Harbour Main, which is part of the larger amalgamated community of Harbour Main-Chapel's Cove-Lakeview.

The community of roughly 1,100 people is situated between Avondale and Holyrood, on Route 60.

Dalton has the look and sound of a professional fisherman, and says he works hard to make a living despite the growing troubles in the industry.

He could throw it all down and make more money as a carpenter, but asked, "How do you leave something that you love?"

He would never stoop so low as to pilfer another man's catch. He said he's always played by the rules, and expects the same from his fellow harvesters.

"That's why I can't get over this," he said. "I want other fishermen to know this happened."

He wants the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to step up enforcement in the bay to deter similar incidents from happening in the future.

Ben Rogers, a conservation and protection chief with DFO, said such incidents are rare, and convictions are even rarer because it's difficult to acquire evidence.

He said such thefts are a violation of the Fisheries Act and the Criminal Code and can result in stiff penalties, with a maximum fine of $100,000.

Rogers encouraged anyone who may have been the victim of such incidents to immediately report to the nearest DFO detachment or Crime Stoppers.

Rogers said the last such incident occurred on the Southern Shore several years ago, and involved a larger crab vessel. The case was never solved.

"It's not a widespread problem, but we do hear about it from time to time," Rogers said.

He said similar thefts in the lobster fishery are also rare.

Fortunately, Rogers added, the stolen crab will not come off Dalton's quota, since fishermen are only credited with landings that are recorded at the wharf.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Crime Stoppers

Geographic location: Conception Bay, Bell Island, Harbour Main-Chapel Holyrood

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Chris
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Roxanna, these people will never get CAUGHT SADLY. Because there just isn't enough patrolling being done on our waters. I really do think it's about TIME The Fisheries step things up here. Let's try and do a little more patrolling ON OUR WATERS and try and catch these IDIOTS....

  • baie boy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    I think the police have dye which can be put on pots. It is almost imposible to remove. I heard one fisherman put it on his lobster pots & it showed up on another boat. Case solved, but I guess some sleezeball lawyer like Simmons could prob. beat the charge. But u will know who the person is. But u know that anyway. Sick.

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    I have a friend who would say - That is lower than a snake's navel!

  • robert
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    this happens alot in conception bay and its usually fisherman from the same harbour that does it.they know if your not going out to haul this happens to me 3 or 4 times a year they leave the bottoms open steal the skivers and crab.in our harbour everybody knows whos at it but nothing is done about it!!!like i always said their fathers was at it how can they be any different

  • Roxanne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    This happens alot more than people realize. We have hard working fishermen and women out there trying to make a living the best way they know how and some lazy idiot decides to take what is not theirs. I hope they get caught!

  • mary
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    I believe in KARMA and they may think they are smart and won't get caught but it's only a matter of time before their luck will change. These types of thieves will always be with us unfortuately, I know how hard it is fishing for crab etc. as my brother is one. They have been treated dirty in the past as well and it's very disheartening especially when you suspect who the thieves are but your hands are tied unless they are caught red handed. One confessed on his death bed, I suppose he couldn't stand the guilt and was afraid to take it with him. Another was found a few years back in the same net he was stealing from. There is alot of stories around this island, not wishing anyone any harm but KARMA will surely come haunt you in the end, but then maybe not everyone has a conscious. Wishing Mr. Dalton well with future catches.

  • Frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Mr. Dalton, I couldn't agree more with your comments. To me it's no different than going into a man's home and stealing the food from his refrigerator. As one person mentioned earlier, the people who did this grew up in an envoirment where their daddy and grand daddy did the same. Personally the penalties are just not stiff enough and the law not enacted on enough to disuade this unacceptable behaviour.

  • San
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    This is sickening.
    I can't imagine how the other fisherman who stole the catch can sleep at night. Is he proud of himself. Does he have any self respect?

    He'll get his just reward someday. Shame on you.

  • MIC
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    This not is as uncommon as you might think.

    When I was fishing we would suspect a number of times a year that our pots were hauled. the catch would be off from other fleets in the area or your GPS marks would be off a little too much. But occasionally the pots would be tied different or have bait sticks missing, or completely untied... so you knew they were hauled by someone else.

  • Steve Y
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    I agree with Mr. Dalton this is just PURE DIRT. There isn't no need for another man to haul his pot's at all. This man is just out there trying to make a living just like the next man. I hope who ever done this to Mr. Dalton back fires on them big time, they should not be able to sleep with their selves at night for doing this. PURE DIRT!!!!

  • Sparkey
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Hi Mr.Dalton; I feel bad to hear of something like this,I`ve never fished in my life but coming from a fishing community I do know, they work for everything they have! Someone must know-of a longliner with a above normal amount of crab forsure,I would carry a loaded shotgun & keep-an-eye-out around my pots.

  • That's Offal
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Don't worry, our brave fisheries officers are busy confiscating fishing rods, family cars and throwing people in jail and giving them very hefty fines for catching a single cod from the shoreline. Those fisheries officers are doing a fine job. Come on, everyone knows the gov wants the fishery here to die.

  • Roxanne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Yes, Chris! Something should be done! But like another poster stated...everyone knows who is at it...I think its about time the fishermen took the law into their own hands when something like this happens..seeing as though nobody else can help...it's sad to see this happening to anyone.
    I also agree with another poster who stated that their fathers did it so they don't know any better..this is sooo true! You live what you learn right?

  • Henry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    And to think that many Newfoundlanders only think that such things only happen on the Mainland. I don't think so!

  • Don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    We were hauling our crab gear a few years back and at the same time another boat was hauling our gear from the other end and because the fleet has 60 pots and it was foggy neither of us had and idea untill we got close enough to see each other and he cut our rope and left. Several pots later we came to the end of our line and then realized what had happend. Not only lost crab but pots as well.

  • B from NL
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    I think the reason why many locals don't squeal on these thieves is because they get in on the spoils one way or another. They say nothing because they enjoy of feed of crab or lobster or whatever compliments of the thieves - kind of hush money. Personally, I think that they are no better than the thieves. You are right about catching these scum. Not enough inspectors and too many cowardly residents. Maybe the ministry of tourism should include this dirty, dark side of Neefoundland in its ads.

  • Chris
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Roxanna, these people will never get CAUGHT SADLY. Because there just isn't enough patrolling being done on our waters. I really do think it's about TIME The Fisheries step things up here. Let's try and do a little more patrolling ON OUR WATERS and try and catch these IDIOTS....

  • baie boy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    I think the police have dye which can be put on pots. It is almost imposible to remove. I heard one fisherman put it on his lobster pots & it showed up on another boat. Case solved, but I guess some sleezeball lawyer like Simmons could prob. beat the charge. But u will know who the person is. But u know that anyway. Sick.

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    I have a friend who would say - That is lower than a snake's navel!

  • robert
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    this happens alot in conception bay and its usually fisherman from the same harbour that does it.they know if your not going out to haul this happens to me 3 or 4 times a year they leave the bottoms open steal the skivers and crab.in our harbour everybody knows whos at it but nothing is done about it!!!like i always said their fathers was at it how can they be any different

  • Roxanne
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    This happens alot more than people realize. We have hard working fishermen and women out there trying to make a living the best way they know how and some lazy idiot decides to take what is not theirs. I hope they get caught!

  • mary
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    I believe in KARMA and they may think they are smart and won't get caught but it's only a matter of time before their luck will change. These types of thieves will always be with us unfortuately, I know how hard it is fishing for crab etc. as my brother is one. They have been treated dirty in the past as well and it's very disheartening especially when you suspect who the thieves are but your hands are tied unless they are caught red handed. One confessed on his death bed, I suppose he couldn't stand the guilt and was afraid to take it with him. Another was found a few years back in the same net he was stealing from. There is alot of stories around this island, not wishing anyone any harm but KARMA will surely come haunt you in the end, but then maybe not everyone has a conscious. Wishing Mr. Dalton well with future catches.

  • Frank
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Mr. Dalton, I couldn't agree more with your comments. To me it's no different than going into a man's home and stealing the food from his refrigerator. As one person mentioned earlier, the people who did this grew up in an envoirment where their daddy and grand daddy did the same. Personally the penalties are just not stiff enough and the law not enacted on enough to disuade this unacceptable behaviour.

  • San
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    This is sickening.
    I can't imagine how the other fisherman who stole the catch can sleep at night. Is he proud of himself. Does he have any self respect?

    He'll get his just reward someday. Shame on you.

  • MIC
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    This not is as uncommon as you might think.

    When I was fishing we would suspect a number of times a year that our pots were hauled. the catch would be off from other fleets in the area or your GPS marks would be off a little too much. But occasionally the pots would be tied different or have bait sticks missing, or completely untied... so you knew they were hauled by someone else.

  • Steve Y
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    I agree with Mr. Dalton this is just PURE DIRT. There isn't no need for another man to haul his pot's at all. This man is just out there trying to make a living just like the next man. I hope who ever done this to Mr. Dalton back fires on them big time, they should not be able to sleep with their selves at night for doing this. PURE DIRT!!!!

  • Sparkey
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    Hi Mr.Dalton; I feel bad to hear of something like this,I`ve never fished in my life but coming from a fishing community I do know, they work for everything they have! Someone must know-of a longliner with a above normal amount of crab forsure,I would carry a loaded shotgun & keep-an-eye-out around my pots.

  • That's Offal
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    Don't worry, our brave fisheries officers are busy confiscating fishing rods, family cars and throwing people in jail and giving them very hefty fines for catching a single cod from the shoreline. Those fisheries officers are doing a fine job. Come on, everyone knows the gov wants the fishery here to die.

  • Roxanne
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Yes, Chris! Something should be done! But like another poster stated...everyone knows who is at it...I think its about time the fishermen took the law into their own hands when something like this happens..seeing as though nobody else can help...it's sad to see this happening to anyone.
    I also agree with another poster who stated that their fathers did it so they don't know any better..this is sooo true! You live what you learn right?

  • Henry
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    And to think that many Newfoundlanders only think that such things only happen on the Mainland. I don't think so!

  • Don
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    We were hauling our crab gear a few years back and at the same time another boat was hauling our gear from the other end and because the fleet has 60 pots and it was foggy neither of us had and idea untill we got close enough to see each other and he cut our rope and left. Several pots later we came to the end of our line and then realized what had happend. Not only lost crab but pots as well.

  • B from NL
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    I think the reason why many locals don't squeal on these thieves is because they get in on the spoils one way or another. They say nothing because they enjoy of feed of crab or lobster or whatever compliments of the thieves - kind of hush money. Personally, I think that they are no better than the thieves. You are right about catching these scum. Not enough inspectors and too many cowardly residents. Maybe the ministry of tourism should include this dirty, dark side of Neefoundland in its ads.