After WDFW fish and wildlife officers baited the crab trap, per se, with intel they shared with Canadian authorities, a British Columbia man crawled right in and got pinched with penalties amounting to nearly $10,000 USD last month.
Laird Goddyn was found guilty in a provincial court in Surrey of violating Canadian fishing laws after coming in 85 Dungeness over the limit in mid-2018. He was sentenced to pay a fine of $7,500 CAD, banned from holding fishing licenses for five years and told he would have to pay $4,638 in fees to get his boat out of storage, according to a press release from DFO yesterday.
“Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s fishery officers routinely work closely with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers with respect to various fisheries, which include the recreational and commercial crab fishery,” DFO said.
Poachers and those servicing the black market steal Dungeness from law-abiding crabbers and harm long-term management of the resource. On top of that, selling crabs under the table exposes customers to uninspected shellfish, which can have serious health consequences.
The case against Goddyn began in late April 2018 about half a mile south of the international border during a US Border Patrol inspection of his boat, described as a 21-foot Bayliner.
Officers were suspicious, given the commercial crab pots aboard, mud stains indicating gear being actively worked and the number of crabs he had, according to a WDFW Police post on Facebook at the time.
There were no recreational, tribal or commercial seasons open in Washington waters.
When WDFW officers responded to the scene, they picked “about 50” mostly undersized and female crabs out of various compartments of the boat, and learned that he was allegedly crabbing commercially in Washington waters to fulfill orders for crab from fellow countrymen.
“He admitted that he had made two previous trips into US waters to harvest crab for his commercial operation,” WDFW reported on social media.
Along with passing that intel along to Canadian authorities, officers also seized Goddyn’s boat, and deposited him at the Peace Arch.
In late June 2018, when the “harvester of interest” – now aboard a new boat – pulled into a marina near White Rock, the first town north of Blaine, Washington, RCMP officers found Goddyn with 89 Dungeness, according to DFO, a tally more than 21 times the BC daily limit of four.
All the crabs were released and for the second time in just over two months, Goddyn had his boat – this one also described as a 21-foot Bayliner – seized, along with his cell phones, DFO reported.
After a lengthy investigation involving search warrants and interviews with witnesses, he ended up being charged with possession violations rather than commercial sales ones, according to a Vancouver paper.
Meanwhile, after their April 2018 contact with Goddyn, Washington wardens and Border Patrol officers swept the bay and pulled 22 commercial pots that matched those that had been found aboard his boat and which appeared to have been freshly baited, WDFW Police reported. They released around 80 crabs.
On the same Facebook post, officers reported that charges against Goddyn would be referred to the Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office, but today an agency enforcement division spokeswoman said they had been dismissed.
Becky Bennett called it “an unfortunate reality in our line of work.”
“We work with prosecutors on education of the work we do to help see more cases across the finish line, but the conflicting and large level of other case loads paired with the difficulty explaining complex natural resource issues makes it hard,” Bennett said.
No doubt that many counties across the state, region and country have far more personal and property crimes to prosecute than they even have the resources to deal with, an aggravating reality for sportsmen like ourselves who do it right and want to see stressed fish and wildlife populations as well as wildlands protected from poachers, but illegal crabbing along the Washington-British Columbia border is at least getting more attention.
Earlier this year, Canadian fishery and Coast Guard officials pulled a “record” 337 crab pots during a closed season from the BC side of Boundary Bay in a five-day operation, including a mile-long groundline with 21 pots attached and designed to be recovered by GPS and grappling hooks to evade detection by authorities.
A similar setup was being used in Similk Bay near Deception Pass in midsummer 2019 until WDFW officers yarded it out of the salt and released 176 legal-sized crabs from six pots. Charges were sent to Skagit County.
A couple years before that, three Anacortes men, Ricky Guttormson, James Montour and Logan Eby received jail time of 30 days, 10 days and two days, respectively, along with ordered to pay legal fees or pay fines for their part in an unlicensed commercial crabbing operation, according to a 2017 Skagit Valley Herald article.