Hunters Charged Under Endangered Species Act

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Ed Byrne, Minister of Natural Resources, and Tom Osborne, Minister of Environment and Conservation, said they are pleased with the convictions handed out recently to hunters who were charged under the Endangered Species Act.

In provincial court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Thursday, November 18, 2004, three hunters from Quebec were convicted of killing Red Wine Woodland Caribou - a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The charges result from the incident of April 10, 2003, at which time conservation officers with the Department of Natural Resources seized 14 animals.

Jack Mark, Edmond Malleck and Serge Mestanapeo, all of Pakuashipi, Quebec, were each fined $5,000, prohibited from hunting caribou in Newfoundland and Labrador for a period of 30 months, and received probation of two years. The three individuals also have to perform 50 hours of public relations activities including participation in stewardship programs, public meetings and workshops to educate the residents of their Innu communities on the designation of the Red Wine Woodland Caribou under the Endangered Species Act.

"These convictions will serve to send a message to the Innu of Quebec and the general public that this province will not tolerate any illegal hunting of the Red Wine herd," said Minister Byrne. "We will remain vigilant in protecting this herd from any further decline."

"These were the first convictions under the province's Endangered Species Act, which clearly demonstrate the importance of this act, as well as its effectiveness," said Minister Osborne. "Government remains committed to preserving all species that are at risk in our province and will take the necessary action to protect species which are in danger of becoming extinct."

The ministers were also pleased that the three hunters in this incident did accept responsibility for their actions and that they did make a statement through their legal counsel they are committed to the preservation of the Red Wine herd.

"The acknowledgment of the importance of the issue by all concerned can only serve to benefit the threatened Red Wine caribou herd and this government's commitment to the herd's protection," said Minister Osborne.

To further the conservation of these caribou and other species at risk, a partnership has been formed - the Labrador Species at Risk Stewardship Program - which includes Labrador's Aboriginal communities and is funded by the Government of Canada's Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk. Through this program, dialogue has been ongoing with representatives of the Quebec Innu to inform them of the species at risk issues in Labrador.

Minister Byrne also provided information on the April 2, 2004, incident in Cache River when approximately 100 Quebec Innu hunters participated in a protest hunt. Minister Byrne stated that there have not been any charges laid as a result of that incident.

"Our response to this protest hunt in the closed hunting zone was very limited due to the fact that the incident occurred during the provincial labour dispute. With limited resources available at the time of this hunt, it was impossible to conduct a proper investigation and unfortunately sufficient evidence was not available to proceed with any charges," said Minister Byrne. "However, I believe that our public statements at that time did serve to deter any further hunting by the Quebec Innu."

Minister Byrne stated that with regard to the March 21, 2004, incident, where conservation officers seized 32 caribou carcasses, three snowmobiles and four rifles, there have been charges laid against several individuals and government awaits these charges to be dealt with by the court.

Meanwhile, on Monday, November 15, 2004, at court in Wabush, Henri Mark and Normand Bellefleur of La Romaine, Quebec, were convicted of discharging a firearm from a highway under the Wildlife Act. Both were fined $200. The charges result from an incident in November 22, 2003.