Annual summary of activities
Enforcing federal wildlife legislation is what we do. From coast to coast to coast, we work in every province and territory to conduct inspections and enforcement activities under our five federal wildlife-related acts.
Priority 1: Canadian Species at High Risk
Large Penalties Issued for Violations of Migratory Birds Legislation
Canada is home to dozens of species of migratory birds, some of which reside in Canada year round and others which migrate into and through the country to breed. The MBCA protects migratory birds as well as their nests and eggs across Canada. It also governs the hunting of birds by identifying how and when certain species may be legally harvested. Enforcement is a key activity in ensuring that migratory bird populations remain healthy for future generations.
In 2015-2016, WED had some key successes that support the conservation of migratory birds:
In New Brunswick, a major prosecution surrounding migratory birds came to a close this year with a significant penalty being ordered against Canaport LNG Limited Partnership. This case began in 2013, when WED’s officers were notified that thousands of migratory birds were found dead on the grounds of the facility in Saint John. Upon inspection, it was confirmed that over 7,500 migratory birds had been scorched to death while flying over the facility late at night. The birds were drawn to the facility by a large gas flare that occurred during a period of fog and low clouds.
An investigation ensued in which electronic documents were seized which, if printed, would stack up equal to the height of the CN Tower. Among the evidence uncovered was proof that the facility knew for years that there was a risk of a flare off killing migratory birds yet mitigation measures were not put in place. Computer records also revealed a second, unreported incident of birds being killed during a previous flare off.
In November 2015, Canaport LNG Limited Partnership pleaded guilty to charges under MBCA and SARA in relation to the death of these birds. The company was sentenced to fines and penalties totaling $750,000. The money will be directed to a variety of conservation, research, and scholarship projects.
In British Columbia, Progress Energy Canada was sentenced to pay a $250,000 fine when migratory birds were killed following the illegal deposit of harmful substances during hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, near the community of Wonowon in the north east corner of the province. The violation led to the death of 17 birds after flow back fluids containing condensate, a form of petroleum liquid hydrocarbons, were returned to the surface and stored in an open above-ground tank. No deterrents were in place to keep the birds from landing in the contaminated liquid. The fine will be paid to the Environmental Damages Fund to support conservation projects.
In Québec, nearly 200 inspections were conducted to combat the illegal hunting of migratory birds on Lac St-Pierre. Of these inspections, 64 violations were found and fines were issued totalling $47,800.
In Manitoba, a fish and wildlife border blitz was held to inspect hunters and fishers returning to the United States. Two individuals were found to have exceeded possession limits for birds protected under the MBCA and were charged a combined total of $1,150 in fines.
Border Blitz Uncovers Black Bear Parts
Across Canada, black bears are harvested as a game animal species. In some provinces, including British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia, they are also harvested as a furbearer species under the authorization of hunting and trapping permits or licenses. The predominant method of harvest is hunting, and black bear hunting trophies are a common Canadian export. Management of the black bear harvest in Canada is conducted with the long-term goal of ensuring population sustainability.
In 1992, the black bear was listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) due to the growth of illegal trade of endangered bear parts – primarily gall bladders but also other parts – in Asia. Under CITES, Appendix II-listed species require a valid export or re-export permit to be legally transported internationally.
In 2015-2016, WED coordinated an inspection blitz at several New Brunswick-US border crossings to ensure hunters were not illegally transporting black bear parts used in traditional medicines from Canada to the US.
- A total of 200 inspections of outbound travellers were conducted. Officers seized:
- 7 paws
- 10 bacula
- 2 testicles
- 4 claws
- These inspections led to the identification of 30 violations under WAPPRIITA and other federal and provincial legislation.
- 22 tickets and eight warnings were issued.
Inspection blitzes, like this one, are important to monitoring and ensuring the harvest and international trade of the species is sustainable and not put at risk by non-compliance.
Protecting Endangered Piping Plovers
In 1986, the piping plover was designated an endangered species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and became protected under SARA when the prohibitions against killing listed species came into effect in 2004. Piping plovers are also protected under MBCA.
Currently, there are only approximately 200 breeding pairs of the species in Canada. The piping plover is highly vulnerable to human activity and are suffering due habitat loss and threats from human activities such as motorized traffic on beaches.
Given its critically low population, preventing crime from happening to endangered species such as the piping plover is a priority for WED.
In 2015-2016, several blitzes and enforcement actions were taken across the country to protect piping plover populations and educate the public about the vulnerability of the bird:
On Prince Edward Island, WED organized a two-day blitz of PEI National Park and the eastern and northeastern shores of the island. This blitz was carried out in cooperation with Parks Canada Agency wardens and provincial conservation officers. Over the course of two days, federal and provincial officers conducted 24 inspections. While no violations of federal laws were cited, 46% of the inspections found violations of provincial legislation.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, officers conducted a similar patrol of the southwestern coast of the island after receiving a complaint that all terrain vehicles (ATVs) were being used on beaches where birds nest. This patrol led to an individual being issued a ticket for operating an ATV in a protected area.
In Québec, officers continued to conduct their annual patrol of the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where piping plovers are known to nest. Over the course of 2015-2016, six written warnings and three tickets were issued for activities that threatened the nesting birds.
In Ontario, for the first time since the 1930s, a pair of piping plovers was found nesting on a popular beach near downtown Toronto. Officers set up protection for the nest to support its success. Although the nest was unfortunately washed away with heavy flooding in the area, it was an encouraging sign that piping plovers are returning to the Great Lakes.
Local Action to Protect Bank Swallows
The bank swallow is a small insectivorous songbird that was found widespread across Canada. In the last 40 years, bank swallow populations have suffered a severe long-term decline, amounting to a loss of 98% of its population.
The reasons for these declines are not well understood, but are likely driven by the cumulative effects of several threats. These include loss of breeding and foraging habitat, destruction of nests during aggregate excavation, collision with vehicles, widespread pesticide use affecting prey abundance and impacts of climate change which may reduce survival or reproductive potential.
Bank swallows breed in a wide variety of natural and artificial sites characterized by vertical banks. This includes riverbanks, lake and ocean bluffs, gravel and sand pits, road cuts, and stock piles of soil. Managing aggregate operations to avoid the disturbance of nesting bank swallows and to provide ongoing habitat supports efforts to recover populations. Enforcement operations concerning bank swallows complimented with compliance promotion efforts by ECCC’s Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) are ongoing across the country.
In 2015-2016, following an investigation in Nova Scotia, WED wildlife officers discovered that 10 bank swallow nests had been destroyed at local sand pit. Shortly after this discovery, the owner of the sand pit was charged and convicted under the MBCA and fined $812.50. Since then, the owner has dedicated and protected a portion of the pit to nesting swallows, foregoing the economic benefit of that part of the facility. This work was undertaken with advice from biologists at the CWS, who are now monitoring the nest to determine the success of the project.
Fines Issued for the Illegal Harvesting of American Ginseng
American ginseng is an extremely slow-growing plant that takes seven to ten years to reach reproductive maturity. Once mature, a plant produces an average of only 25 seeds. However, only one in 200 of these seeds will produce a fertile plant, and a colony needs approximately 170 plants to remain viable. Due to its slow-growth, illegal harvesting of wild American ginseng is exceptionally detrimental to the species. In fact, there are only a few dozen viable populations of American ginseng left in Canada, located in Québec and in Ontario.
For several years now, WED’s wildlife officers have been monitoring American ginseng on federal lands.
After finding evidence that ginseng was being illegally harvested, officers launched a surveillance program in conjunction with conservation officers from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. This surveillance led to officers apprehending two individuals in possession of American ginseng with a foreign market value of between $190,000 and $380,000. In total, 251 ginseng roots were seized from the individuals’ backpacks and an additional 129 roots were seized from their truck. Both individuals pleaded guilty and were fined $9,000.
Dall’s Sheep Hunted Illegally in Yukon
The Dall’s sheep is a species of thinhorn sheep that live in the mountainous areas of the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska, and to a lesser extent British Columbia. One of the Dall’s sheep most distinguishing features is its white coat. During the summer months the sheep are typically found higher in the mountains and split into groups of rams, and groups of ewes and lambs, where they feed in alpine meadows. In the winter, the weather typically drives them into lower elevations on south facing slopes.
In 2015-2016 following an investigation by WED and Yukon conservation officers, two individuals who were licensed to hunt Dall’s sheep in British Columbia were found guilty of hunting and killing two sheep in Yukon and then falsely declaring them killed in British Columbia. Forensic photographic evidence was used in court to match and positively identify the kill sites in Yukon. The individuals pleaded guilty and were sentenced to pay $7,500 each in fines for violating WAPPRIITA. They also received a 3-year prohibition from obtaining either a Yukon export permit or a federal CITES permit.
Priority 2: Foreign Species at High Risk
Auction House Illegally Exports Protected Species
In February 2016, an auction house in Québec, IEGOR Hôtel des encans de Montréal Inc., was fined $33,500 for unlawfully exporting products made from wildlife and for knowingly possessing controlled wildlife products for the purpose of exporting them from Canada. Both of these actions are prohibited under WAPPRIITA.
Fourteen art items were seized and forfeited during the investigation were worth approximately $30,000 including items containing:
- elephant ivory
- narwhal tusks
- walrus ivory
- leopard fur
- lynx fur
To investigate this file, wildlife officers worked in collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service officers from Florida, Nevada and New York, as well as the RCMP.
Priority 3: Habitats or Protected Areas at High Risk
Lower North Shore of Québec
The Lower North Shore of Québec has nine Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBS) consisting of several islands, islets, rocks, and waters surrounding the islands. The small terrestrial portions of MBS are composed of tundra, stunted conifers, rocky outcrops and small ponds. Many of the sanctuaries on Québec’s Lower North Shore were established in the 1920s to protect essential nesting sites for various species of colonial, passerine and especially seabirds such as the common eider, common murres, Atlantic puffins and razorbills. It is one of the richest seabird nesting areas in the North Atlantic and as such, also attracts vulnerable species.
WED and CWS are in the second year of a six year project targeting illegal harvest in the area, with the objective of increasing bird populations over that time period.
WED’s officers assisted biologists from CWS in June 2015 to launch a five-year survey of marine birds in the sanctuaries located in the target area. This survey is important for collecting key data on the birds.
WED has taken proactive measures to controlling predators on islands, such as foxes, which present a risk to vulnerable colonies of nesting seabirds.
During the seabirds’ critical nesting period, which occurs from May to July, wildlife officers patrolled the area to check for non-compliance particularly to deter illegal collection of eggs.
52 inspections were completed. Of these, eight turned into investigations that resulted in 12 charges being laid. At the same time, seven seizures of toxic (lead) shot occurred even though its use has been illegal for waterfowl hunting in Canada since 1999.
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