Seafood supplier smuggled protected Florida softshell turtles into Canada

March 31, 2016 - St. Catharines, Ontario - Environment and Climate Change Canada

Mr. Jie Hua Shen, of Toronto, Ontario, owner of Marine Seafood Inc., was ordered to pay $25,000 in the Ontario Court of Justice, after pleading guilty on March 24, 2016, to the illegal importation of Florida Softshell Turtles that were transported into Canada in contravention of a foreign state’s law, an offence under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA).

In December 2013, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Enforcement Branch, together with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, commenced a joint-forces operation focusing on the trade in Florida Softshell Turtles. The operation resulted in the seizure of 40 live Florida Softshell Turtles, which were illegally smuggled from the United States into Canada by Mr. Shen, through his company Marine Seafood Inc.

Florida Softshell Turtles are prized for their meat, which has led to a decline in their numbers in Florida. In response, the State of Florida has banned the commercial fishing of Florida Softshell Turtles. The turtles seized in this case were found to have fish hooks buried in their esophagi, further indicating that they were captured illegally.

In May 2015, Mr. Shen was found guilty in Federal Court for contraventions under the Customs Act and fined $18,000 for smuggling the turtles.

Quick facts

  • There are over 350 species of turtles and tortoises in the wild. Of this number, trade in 140 species of turtles and 44 species of tortoises are regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
  • CITES is an international agreement that Canada acceded to on July 3, 1975, to regulate, or in some cases to prohibit, trade in specific species of wild animals and plants, as well as their respective parts and derivatives.
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada is the lead agency responsible for CITES implementation in Canada. WAPPRIITA is the legislation used to implement CITES in Canada. Under Canadian law, any CITES-listed wildlife imported into Canada, exported from Canada, or attempted to be exported without the required permits may be subject to seizure and forfeiture, and those responsible may be liable to prosecution.

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