Unlawful import of regulated fish into Canada nets $35K penalty for Ontario aquatic pet store

News release

September 25, 2019 – Toronto, Ontario

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s enforcement officers are deeply committed to enforcing federal and international wildlife legislation in an effort to stop the illegal trafficking of endangered species.

On September 24, 2019, a guilty plea was entered on behalf of Magical Aquarium Club Inc. in the Ontario Court of Justice to a charge laid under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. The company received a $35,000 penalty, which will be directed toward the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund. Additionally, the company is subject to a court order prohibiting Mr. Tao, an employee, from applying for a permit under the Act, for two years—a requirement for legally importing or exporting species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

On December 7, 2018, Mr. Tao imported into Canada, on behalf of Magical Aquarium Club Inc., twenty-six live Asian arowana fish from Malaysia. The trade in arowanas is controlled because the species is listed in appendix I of CITES, the most trade-restrictive category. For this reason, two CITES permits are required to legally import specimens into Canada, one permit from the country of export and one from Canada, the country of import. The company did not obtain an import permit. The Court also ordered the arowanas be forfeited to the Crown.

Call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) to anonymously report wildlife crimes. You may be eligible for a reward of up to $2,000 from Crime Stoppers.

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Quick facts

  • Global wildlife crime, including poaching, smuggling, and trafficking of animals and plants, is estimated to be worth over US$155 billion per year, making it the world’s fourth most lucrative form of crime.

  • Asian arowanas are native to Southeast Asia and, in the wild, inhabit rivers in forested swamps and wetlands. Asian arowanas are farmed in some countries. The fish are sought after for use in the pet trade and are considered by some cultures to bring good fortune.

  • CITES appendix I listed species include all species threatened with extinction that are or may be affected by trade. Trade in specimens of these species must be subject to particularly strict regulation in order not to further endanger their survival and must only be authorized in exceptional circumstances.

  • More than 180 countries, including Canada, have signed the CITES agreement and are working together to protect the world’s most threatened species.

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada is the lead agency responsible for implementing CITES in Canada. The Convention sets controls, through an international permit system, on the international trade and movement of more than 33,000 animal and plant species that are endangered or have been or may be threatened due to excessive commercial exploitation.

  • The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act is the legislation that applies to the import and export of species whose survival is threatened or may become threatened by trade. This act implements CITES in Canada.

  • The Environmental Damages Fund is administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada. It was created in 1995 to provide a mechanism for directing funds received as a result of monetary penalties, court orders, and voluntary payments to priority projects that will benefit our natural environment.

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