Operation Bruin Leads to a Conviction and Penalty for Dunmore, Alberta, Resident
MEDICINE HAT, Alta – October 22, 2013 – John (Jack) Whitmarsh of Dunmore, Alberta, was convicted on October 16, 2013, in Alberta Provincial Court on two counts for illegally possessing and importing an Alaskan brown bear into Canada. Whitmarsh was sentenced to pay $15,000 for violating subsection 6(1) and paragraph 8(a) of the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA).
The Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) will receive $13,500 of the $15,000. Whitmarsh is also prohibited for a period of two years from importing wildlife into Canada and travelling outside of Alberta for the purposes of hunting. He was required to forfeit the hide and skull seized during the investigation.
This resolution is one element of Operation Bruin, an extensive three year multi‑agency international investigation into the illegal hunting of Alaskan wildlife. Environment Canada, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Wildlife Troopers and Alberta Fish & Wildlife worked together after Alaskan authorities determined that several Alberta hunters were illegally killing brown bears and importing them into Canada. The investigation revealed that, in addition to the brown bears, a number of mountain goats and two black bears were also allegedly illegally harvested and imported into Canada.
Investigators in Canada seized seven brown bears, five mountain goats, two black bears, four ducks and three wolverines during the investigation. Import and export of all species of bear are controlled by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
To date, 15 Alberta residents have been charged by Environment Canada for alleged contraventions of WAPPRIITA, and two, including John Whitmarsh, have been convicted as a result of Operation Bruin. Lyle Whitmarsh of Cochrane, Alberta, was previously convicted on March 22, 2013 in Calgary Provincial Court for illegally importing a brown bear that was illegally killed in Alaska. He was fined $4,000, of which $3,600 will go to the EDF. Additionally, Lyle Whitmarsh was ordered to declare all wildlife imports into Canada to Environment Canada for a period of two years. He also forfeited an Alaska brown bear skull and hide.
As a further result of the investigation, three Alaska residents have also been indicted in Alaska, along with a guide. A fourth Alaskan has also been charged in both the United States and Canada.
Environment Canada enforces federal laws that protect wildlife. Any CITES-listed wildlife imported into Canada, exported from Canada, or attempted to be exported without the required permits is subject to seizure and forfeiture, and those responsible are liable to prosecution.
The Environmental Damages Fund, administered by Environment Canada, was created in 1995 to provide a mechanism for directing funds received as a result of fines, court orders and voluntary payments for the repair of the actual harm done to the environment.
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