Gordon Wolfe, 60, of Smithers, was fined $3,000 in a Hazelton courtroom last Wednesday for charges stemming from illegal fishing acts.
On Nov. 11, 2009, Wolfe was arrested and charged with three infractions under the BC Sportfishing Regulations pursuant to the Fisheries Act, fishing with a barbed hook, using illegal bait and obstruction of a conservation officer.
The obstruction charge resulted when Mr. Wolfe cut his line in an attempt to conceal the barbed hook and fish roe, in this case cured salmon roe, as the conservation officer approached him to lay the charges, Supervisor of the Bulkley Stikine zone with the Conservation Officer Service, Sgt. Kevin Nixon explained.
The obstruction charge was dismissed due to extenuating circumstances, but Wolfe was found guilty on the other two counts, fishing with a barbed hook and using roe and was fined $1,500 for each offence.
The fine includes monies earmarked for fish conservation, Nixon said.
What makes the case all the more interesting and important, Nixon said, is the fact Wolfe is a former employee of the Fish and Wildlife Branch of the Ministry of Environment and member of the northern branch of the Steelhead Society and past-chair of the Upper Skeena region of the Sports Fishing Advisory Board.
Those affiliations implied Mr. Wolfe knew the regulations.
“The judge, in her [Judge Christine Birnie] decision said she wanted to send a message to Mr. Wolfe and to the community as a whole that this activity is not condoned,” Nixon said.
The amount of the fine does send a message because both offences are ticketable, Nixon said, in the amount of $150 per ticket.
“For a judge to assess a fine of $1,500 for each offence, definitely sends a message,” Nixon said.
“It’s a good precedent and will certainly send a message to the public.”
In addition to the fines, Wolfe is prohibited from fishing for 18 months and he was also ordered to forfeit he fishing gear seized when he was arrested in 2009.
While delivering her decision, Judge Birnie noted Mr. Wolfe appeared to have exceptional recall of the day, even though three years had elapsed and remarked it made his story less credible, Nixon recounted.
Unfortunately, Nixon noted, illegal fishing is a regular occurrence, but difficult to impose legal action.
“It’s very hard for us to detect because we have to catch them in the act,” Nixon said.
“Every year we get guys who cut their lines before we get to them.”
Without the evidence, conservation officers have few options at their disposal.