Petty Harbour fisherman speaks out about tampering and theft

Jeff Hiscock
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Francis Chafe says Harbour Main crab theft not an isolated incident

Francis Chafe of Petty Harbour has been a fisherman for 47 years, so he knows the water, and he knows his equipment.

When he read an article in Friday's Telegram about a fisherman from Harbour Main named Tom Dalton, who recently discovered he had been robbed of hundreds of pounds of crab, Chafe called the newspaper to say there have been times in the past few years when his pots were unusually light, and he suspects they were tampered with.

A fishing boat is moored along the wharf in Petty Harbour, where Francis Chafe has spent the majority of his years fishing. - Photo by Jeff Hiscock/Special to The Telegram

Francis Chafe of Petty Harbour has been a fisherman for 47 years, so he knows the water, and he knows his equipment.

When he read an article in Friday's Telegram about a fisherman from Harbour Main named Tom Dalton, who recently discovered he had been robbed of hundreds of pounds of crab, Chafe called the newspaper to say there have been times in the past few years when his pots were unusually light, and he suspects they were tampered with.

"We knew by the way the pots were that it was not the way we had tied them," Chafe said.

"Some people tie them on the bottom; some tie them on their side. People do things differently."

Although he was saddened by the Harbour Main story, Chafe said he's glad people are being made aware that this sort of thing is going on.

He said he has heard of it happening before, but people don't often come forward because it's a hard thing to prove and there are many circumstances that can lead to a light catch.

A light catch is one thing, but earlier this month, Chafe lost 50 pots - not just the catch inside - and they have yet to be found.

"I'm not accusing anybody of doing anything, " he said. "Pots can be lost to unforseen things, there's no doubt about it. It kind of amazes me though, because the ropes were perfect and the pots were perfect."

Chafe spent six hours searching for his gear, and was unable to haul the rest of his catch - a major setback.

He says he's heard of instances where people have found their pots dropped miles away from where they were originally set, and says there's no way they were moved by the current. He also doubts his pots sank.

"It's discouraging," Chafe says. "Crab are getting scarcer."

Tampering and theft goes against the unwritten code of fisherman in the province, to respect one another's catch and never interfere with another harvester's living.

"If we can't help 'em, we don't hurt 'em," Chafe explains.

His next move will be to begin dragging for his pots on the slight chance that some are sunk. He's waiting for other fishermen with pots set in the area to move on, so as not to upset their lines.

Meanwhile Tom Dalton's phone has been ringing off the hook in Harbour Main with supportive phone calls since his story was published on Friday. He says other fisherman have been thanking him for coming forward with the issue, and say they've encountered similar situations.

"I never heard of any other problems like this until I came forth with mine," Dalton says.

"At least now people are being made aware, and maybe some good will come of it."

telegram@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: Petty Harbour

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Recent comments

  • Frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    It's a real shame that there are people out there who have lost all respect and compassion for the property and well being of others. personally, I think they have absolutely no conscience,no guts, and are creeping cowards by day and night. I don't think they have had any
    feelings and respect since childhood, they live in a ME SOCIETY they couldn't care less about the pain they bring to others.

    Thank God, we still have Law and Order as we would be in real trouble.

  • Rick
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Given that this is theft, isn't the code actually a written one versus an unwritten one??? As in, written in the criminal code that you can't steal other people's stuff!

  • mark
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Theft is theft, I'll say that for sure. Eventhough the pots are in the water doesn't mean the contents are fair game for anyone to take the crab from inside. Someone owns those tanks and so anything within would become theirs. Well that's how I see it, to steal soneone elses catch is the same as stealing from their pockets or even tables. I feel bad for the fishermen who have lost their catch and even their pots. Living off anything from the ocean is a hard risk for everyone involved, not knowing what the waters will do. Will they give us a good catch? Will they give us nothing? Or even wondering if they'll take a boats crew.
    I see theft as something a lazy person does, and to steal from people who actually have more courage than I do to go out there almost every day to make a living is just down right rotten.
    I'm hoping you fishermen can regain any losses you've gotten from theives.

  • Frank
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    It's a real shame that there are people out there who have lost all respect and compassion for the property and well being of others. personally, I think they have absolutely no conscience,no guts, and are creeping cowards by day and night. I don't think they have had any
    feelings and respect since childhood, they live in a ME SOCIETY they couldn't care less about the pain they bring to others.

    Thank God, we still have Law and Order as we would be in real trouble.

  • Rick
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    Given that this is theft, isn't the code actually a written one versus an unwritten one??? As in, written in the criminal code that you can't steal other people's stuff!

  • mark
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    Theft is theft, I'll say that for sure. Eventhough the pots are in the water doesn't mean the contents are fair game for anyone to take the crab from inside. Someone owns those tanks and so anything within would become theirs. Well that's how I see it, to steal soneone elses catch is the same as stealing from their pockets or even tables. I feel bad for the fishermen who have lost their catch and even their pots. Living off anything from the ocean is a hard risk for everyone involved, not knowing what the waters will do. Will they give us a good catch? Will they give us nothing? Or even wondering if they'll take a boats crew.
    I see theft as something a lazy person does, and to steal from people who actually have more courage than I do to go out there almost every day to make a living is just down right rotten.
    I'm hoping you fishermen can regain any losses you've gotten from theives.