Nationalwide Star Canada Corp. and one individual ordered to pay a total of $250,000 in fines for illegally importing endangered European Eel meat
October 4, 2023 – Toronto, Ontario
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting Canadian and foreign species of wild animals and plants that are threatened, or that may be at risk of over-exploitation due to unsustainable or illegal trade.
On October 3, 2023, Nationalwide Star Canada Corp. and Zhou Hong Xia, both of Markham, Ontario, were fined $175,000 and $75,000 respectively by the Ontario Court of Justice, in Toronto. The company and the individual pleaded guilty to one charge each for violating the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA). These violations relate to the illegal importation of European Eel meat. The $250,000 in total fines will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.
In addition to the fines, approximately 90,000 kg of eel meat was forfeited, having an estimated retail value of more than $4.3 million. This ensures the illegally imported product is removed from the commercial market.
Between November 2016 and January 2018, shipping containers declared as American Eel fillets were imported into Canada. However, Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers discovered, through sampling and DNA analysis, European Eel meat mixed with the legally imported American Eel meat in all five containers. European Eel is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and must be accompanied by a permit to be lawfully imported into Canada. Zhou Hong Xia was charged with one count of importing five shipping containers containing CITES-listed species without a permit. The company was also charged with one count of importing one of the five shipping containers containing CITES-listed species without a permit, a contravention of subsection 6(2) of WAPPRIITA.
Collaborating with other law enforcement agencies is critical to our work. Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers worked with other federal departments, provincial governments, international agencies, and non-governmental organizations during the course of the investigation.
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The illegally imported eel was discovered during inspections which were part of Operation Vitrum, a multi-year, ongoing Environment and Climate Change Canada-led effort to stop illegal trade in endangered eels. This case is the fourth successful prosecution that stemmed from this national operation.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement that Canada joined in 1975. As a party to the agreement, Canada adopted domestic legislation to regulate, or in some cases, prohibit trade of specific species of wild animals and plants, as well as their respective parts and derivatives. The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) is the Canadian federal law through which Canada meets its obligations under CITES.
The European Eel, listed in Appendix II of CITES, is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List (2018) and is subject to the European Union’s eel regulations. Species are listed in CITES Appendix II when there is a risk that they may be threatened with extinction unless trade is regulated. Importing and exporting species listed in CITES Appendix II is allowed if the appropriate permits are obtained. Specimens imported into Canada must be accompanied by a CITES export permit (or re-export certificate) issued by the exporting country. The permit is part of the system of strict trade controls that help ensure that any trade in these species is legal, sustainable, and traceable.
Created in 1995, the Environmental Damages Fund is a Government of Canada program administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada. The Fund helps ensure that court-awarded penalties are used to repair environmental damage or benefit the environment. The Fund receives and redirects the money from court penalties and settlements and aims to invest in areas where the environmental damage occurred.
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)
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