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Farmers market stakeout nets fish fine
Seller handed $700 ticket in court after plainclothes officers determine catch of the day was illegal

Daniel Campbell
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, February 1, 2014

They say what you don't know can't hurt you, but the old idiom doesn't seem to apply to those in the fish-selling business.

nnsl photo

Officers with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans staked out the Yellowknife Farmers Market at Somba K'e Civic Plaza last June for nearly two hours, after which they charged a fish seller with a Fisheries Act violation which netted a $700 fine. - NNSL file photo

A local fish vendor didn't know the 149 fish he bought in Kakisa last spring came from an unlicensed fisher -- and he was hurt to the tune of one $700 fine in territorial court on Wednesday.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers tracked the man over the spring, using Facebook and other online ads to monitor his activity. Two plainclothes officers then surveilled his fish stand at the Yellowknife Farmers Market at Somba K'e Civic Plaza for more than 90 minutes on June 11.

Gerald Fillatre, a detachment supervisor with DFO, was actively involved in the investigation. He said the department regularly monitors the web for illegal fish sales. Although in most cases the sellers are licensed, Fillatre said they always double check.

As the market winded down on June 11, a DFO officer approached the man at his market stand and asked where he'd bought the fish. According to a statement of facts read into the record by Crown prosecutor Donna Keats, the man told the officer he'd bought the fish from a man in Kakisa.

DFO checked their records and said there were no commercial licences in Kakisa. They seized more than $600 in cash and 14 frozen fillets from his stand. Sixty-two more fillets were seized from his home.

DFO was unable to confirm if the fisher who sold the vendor his illegally caught fish was ever charged.

"What I can say is that this is part of a larger investigation," Fillatre said.

"It's an ongoing matter before the courts."

Representing himself in court on Wednesday, the man told the judge there is in fact a commercial fishery in Kakisa and he was told he was buying from a licensed source.

"I had no reason to doubt the gentleman. I purchased it in good faith," the man said.

"If I had any inclination (the fish was caught illegally) I would not have purchased it."

Keats said the vendor wasn't diligent enough.

"If there's no market for illegal fish, one would assume the impetus for catching illegal fish would wane," she said.

The man pleaded guilty on Wednesday and accepted full responsibility, agreeing he should have been more careful.

Judge Bernadette Schmaltz said it's important to protect our natural resources. She ordered the vendor pay a $700 fine and surrender all 76 fillets and the $602 in cash seized by DFO.

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