Fish-trafficking sting nets 33 people, 80 charges

Focus on Lesser Slave, Winagami Lakes

Leader staff

The hottest news item in Alberta last week was the notice from Fish & Wildlife about fish-trafficking charges. Thirty-three people are charged, some of them from Slave Lake, Faust and High Prairie.

What’s alleged is that these people, “under the guise of Métis and Treaty domestic fishing rights,” were selling and/or buying fish netted in Lesser Slave and Winagami Lakes.

The undercover investigation started two years ago and focused on the trafficking of fish in northern and central Alberta. What it revealed was “a network of illegal killers and buyers of fish.”

The investigation involved undercover officers buying fish; the last of these purchases took place on Jan. 23 of this year. It resulted in the seizure of a truck and some fishing equipment.

Fish & Wildlife estimates 12,000 lbs of fish were illegally caught and sold from the two named lakes in the period of the investigation, which began in November of 2017.

“All fish that were seized during the operation will be distributed to people in need throughout Alberta,” says the release.

The 33 people facing charges are due to appear in provincial court later this month in five different communities, including Slave Lake (Feb. 19) and High Prairie (Feb. 24).

Other court appearances are scheduled for Morinville, Edmonton and Stettler.

Names were not released, but the individuals charged are also from Halkirk, Bashaw, Vegreville and Castor.

The law takes this sort of activity seriously, as indicated by the range of penalties available to the courts. Fish trafficking can draw up to a $100,000 fine and a year in jail.

“Any unregulated trade in fish and wildlife helps fuel black market demand,” says the release, “which could lead to increased poaching and pressure on fish and wildlife populations.”

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