In a directed verdict released on Wednesday, Todd Young and 3Ts Ltd. were acquitted of fishing for Atlantic halibut without a licence.
Young is part owner of the 3Ts fish plant, which is based in Woody Point.
The case was heard by Judge Wayne Gorman in provincial court in Corner Brook on May 18 and 28.
At the conclusion of the Crown’s case, counsel for Young and 3Ts applied for a directed verdict.
The request meant Gorman had to determine whether the evidence, if believed, could reasonably support the inference of guilt the Crown had sought to draw.
In his written decision, Gorman said he concluded it did not and the application should be granted, and he acquitted both accused of the charge against them.
The charges were laid on Oct. 27, 2016 after the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) conducted surveillance on the vessel Le Grand Duc, which was skippered by Lewis Caines.
A fisheries officer testified seeing something passed from the vessel to the wharf on more than one occasion and something thrown from the wharf to the ship.
Another officer testified seeing two large fish tubs in the area where the vessel had docked at the wharf belonging to the 3Ts fish plant.
One of the tubs was found to contain “slushy water” and Atlantic halibut, and the other contained only slushy water.
Turbot (Greenland halibut) and Atlantic halibut were found on the vessel. The Atlantic halibut found in both locations had their heads removed.
Lewis did not have a fishing licence on Oct. 27, 2016 and the one issued to him to fish for turbot on Oct. 28, 2016 required that he immediately return to the water any Atlantic halibut caught. He was not charged with illegally fishing for turbot.
Caines testified he did catch Atlantic halibut and removed their heads before returning to Woody Point and that he placed the fish in a tub, which had ice and water in it, on the 3Ts wharf.
Caines said he asked Young if he wanted to buy some halibut and was told no. He said he called him from sea and asked for a loan of two fish tubs, and Young told him that he didn’t want anything to do with buying illegal fish.
Caines also testified that he felt pressured by the fisheries officer who interviewed him to implicate Young and 3Ts.
Gorman said the Crown was relying on Young and 3Ts being parties to the offence committed by Caines.
Robby Ash, lawyer for Young and 3Ts Ltd., argued there was no evidence to establish either was involved in fishing without an appropriate licence and that by the time Caines called Young the fishing had been completed.
Crown prosecutor Dave Mills argued fishing includes the offloading of the fish. He said there is evidence Caines contacted Young and asked for the two fish tubs, and they were there when the vessel docked.
Mills argued that from the evidence, an inference could be drawn that Young assisted Caines in illegally fishing.
Young and 3Ts still have a number of other matters before the court.