6 Lethbridge men plead guilty to charges of poaching threatened fish
PINCHER CREEK – Anti-poaching advocates are hoping to use the legal case of six Lethbridge men as a warning for all anglers.
On June 24th, the province’s Report – A – Poacher phone line received a tip from the public about a group of anglers on the Oldman River upstream of Highway 22.
The caller told Fish and Wildlife officers the group of men were suspected to be keeping more fish than the legal limit allowed. The caller recorded the licence plate numbers of the vehicles and when officers responded, they found six Lethbridge men in possession of 25 cutthroat trout and four bull trout.
The men were identified as Harka Gurung, Sunny Gurung, Dhan Gurung, Sha Subba, Suk Subba and Kanchan Subba.
At their first appearance at Pincher Creek Court Tuesday morning, all six men plead guilty and were fined one thousand dollars and had their fishing licenses suspended.
“The magnitude of this one is beyond the norm,” said Paul Johnson, District Fish and Wildlife Officer. “Generally speaking, we would not have this number of fish and this many vulnerable fish.”
At least half a dozen anglers from across southern Alberta attended the court proceedings. Calgary angler Jordan Pinkster says too many poachers are never caught and they have a devastating impact on the province’s fishing industry.
“For us, sometimes you catch the same fish on a yearly basis,” explained Pinkster. “You form a relationship with these beautiful creatures and to see a situation where they have been illegally uprooted from their natural habitat. Catching in a catch and release fishery is very disappointing.”
The Oldman River where the fish were caught is open only to catch and release fishing because both trout are species at risk in the province. In addition, the cutthroat trout is federally listed as a threatened species.
“In a situation like this where you are taking a provincial resource and a depleted provincial resource and making the decision for all Albertan’s to take it for your own use – I think (the guilty pleas) provide a good deterrent to make it an example of this kind of irresponsible behavior,” added Johnson.
Maximum sentences for fish and wildlife poaching include fines up to $100,000, loss of hunting privileges and even jail time.
© 2015 Shaw