The defendants in a fisheries court case that has been ongoing for six years has asked the judge to acquit all of the accused.
The matters, for which charges were first filed in February 2012, involve accusations of a fish plant in Woody Point failing to comply with a fishing licence, making false statements to a fisheries officer and a fisheries observer unlawfully transmitting falsified information.
Charged with eight offences each, including six for allegedly failing to comply with a fishing licence, were 3T’s Limited, John L. Roberts and Todd Young.
Young and his fishing vessel, the Nicole Daniel, was among the harvesters featured in the first season of “Cold Water Cowboys,” a reality television series about Newfoundland and Labrador’s fishing industry that aired for four seasons.
The fourth defendant, Gauvin and Noel Compagnie Ltee. — listed as having the same address as 3T’s Limited, was charged with four offences, including two counts of failing to comply with a fishing licence.
All of the defendants have single counts of making false statements to a fisheries officer and a fisheries observer unlawfully transmitting falsified information against them.
More specifically, the allegations are that the fishing enterprises misreported how much herring was being landed at the 3T’s plant between October and December 2010. The Crown’s case purported that the amount of fish shipped from the plant in Woody Point was more than what was being reported at the time the catch was landed.
The case has been called 96 times in court, 79 of which were for the trial now ongoing at provincial court in Corner Brook.
The Crown has finished presenting the case for the prosecution.
When the trial was set to resume Thursday, defence lawyer Robby Ash requested Judge Kymil Howe make a directed verdict and to acquit all of the defendants.
Ash then went on to argue that the Crown’s case does not prove the allegations. He contended the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans had been conducting an elaborate and lengthy investigation into the fishing activity in Woody Point and had invested so much into the investigation that it developed tunnel vision.
Ash argued it was after charges had been laid that DFO began trying to make what evidence it had fit into a preconceived theory of what was going on.
The Crown’s case largely hinged on lengthy video surveillance of the dock in Woody Point, but Ash said the video never proved anything illegal was happening with the herring being landed.
Acknowledging the video showed what he called controlled chaos, Ash said the video still only showed fish tubs being moved around. The video, he continued, never showed those tubs being filled with fish, being salted or being weighed and there is no video of what was happening inside the plant.
Noting evidence provided at trial that it could take between 150 and 600 pounds of salt to properly cure 1,500 pounds of herring, Ash said the differences between the weight of the landed and shipped tubs of fish could possibly be accounted for by the addition of salt.
He said the Crown’s conclusion that the weight differences were an indication of illegal recording practices is nothing but speculation and conjecture.
Crown attorney David Mills asked Howe for more time to prepare his response to Ash’s request for a directed verdict. The case will be called again Feb. 15.