Maple Ridge is one of the "problematic areas," as far as fish poaching is concerned.
Since a full ban on fishing the sockeye salmon run went into effect last Thursday, fisheries officers have seized more than 50 gillnets and nine vessels, and launched 27 investigations.
Enforcement officers are stepping up their efforts to put a stop to midnight poaching of sockeye salmon on the Fraser River.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans banned commercial and sport fishing for everyone, including First Nations, last week.
It had become clear that this summer's sockeye run would be just two million, nearly half the 3.7 million expected by the Pacific Salmon Commission.
That means "every one of these fish we now need to get to the spawning grounds, so all the fisheries in the Fraser River were shut down," said DFO's Herb Redekopp, chief of conservation and protection in the Lower Fraser area.
Higher-than-normal reports from the public, and sightings by air and land patrols, led to the deployment of more resources to the area to enforce the ban.
Officials are concerned about blackmarket sales.
Redekopp was out Thursday night around midnight near Agassiz when he and his crew saw a blacked-out boat with two fishermen using gillnets.
In the 10 minutes it took to catch up to the boat using night-vision equipment and a floodlight, 47 fish had been killed, Redekopp said.
Most poachers have been caught between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., using skiffs with small outboard motors, he said.
"The most problematic areas this past week have been the Fraser Canyon, the Chilliwack area, Agassiz, Maple Ridge, and Surrey. It's fairly broad," he said.
Of the 27 investigations launched over the past week, no charges have yet been laid.
The maximum penalty is a $100,000 fine, and repeat offenders also risk jail time, up to a maximum of two years under the Fisheries Act.
Many of those caught on the Fraser River have been from area First Nations communities.
Some have expressed concern that the ban would create a hardship for bands that rely on summer sockeye for food and ceremonial purposes.
Ernie Crey, fisheries adviser to the Sto:lo Tribal Council, said he was expecting to hear of infractions if the run collapsed and a ban was enacted. Many rely on the supplementary income.
But the majority of the region's 680 "designated fishers," are compliant with DFO rules, said Crey, who was once an Aboriginal Fisheries Guardian on the Fraser in the 1990s.
"They respect closures notwithstanding the fact they may create frustration and hardship," he said.
Those who have been caught poaching are "exposing themselves to danger and arrest. They'd have to be desperate."
@ Copyright 2013