The department said on its website that Canadian inspectors with the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization issued 12 citations to vessels from the Russian Federation and the European Union.
Fisheries and Oceans said the fishing season for redfish was closed on July 29 after the total allowable catch for the species was reached, but the vessels continued fishing for up to two more days and didn't discard their catch as required.
Bob Lambert, acting director of conservation and protection for Fisheries in St. John's, N.L., said there were delays in communicating the closure from the NAFO countries whose vessels were cited. He said the notice went to the countries on the day the fishery closed, and that information might not have been passed to the fishing boats quickly enough.
Lambert didn't know what caused the delay, but said that lag led to the overfishing and the issuance of the citations. He said it's up to the flag states to investigate the incidents and impose sanctions.
"For every citation that's issued, the flag state of the vessel will have to report to NAFO the status of that citation," he said Friday. "And a country can't come out and say, 'We don't have any law to handle that,' because the NAFO measures say it's up to them to ensure they do have sufficient laws with sufficient penalties."
But he said NAFO won't know until next year what the flag country did to address the violation, whether it be through seizures, fines, sanctions or nothing.
Vessels are notified of a fisheries closure as it happens, indicating that they must stop fishing. Lambert said that will change as of January when NAFO countries will be given five days notice before a closure is imposed.
"That will give everybody lots of time for parties to contact their vessels to let them know it has closed," he said.
The citations were issued between July 30 and Aug. 22.