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B.C. more than doubles fines for illegal hunting, other wildlife offences

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Starting this week, people caught illegally hunting or fishing will face much stiffer penalties under B.C.'s Wildlife Act.

The increased fines coming into effect Tuesday represent the first "significant increase" enacted in more than 20 years, the Ministry of Forests said in a news release.

Violation tickets will range from $345 to $1,495 – more than double the current range of $115 to $575.

"Fines issued under the Wildlife Act help discourage unlawful activities that harm fish and wildlife. The new fine amounts better reflect the serious nature of these offences and recognize the importance of wildlife to everyone living in British Columbia," the ministry said.

The highest penalties apply to offences such as big game hunting during a closed season, unlawful possession of big game, and unlawful possession of a threatened or endangered species.

Other offences with increased fines include unlawful trapping, hunting without a licence, damaging a wildlife habitat, and illegal trafficking of wildlife, the government said.

The B.C. Wildlife Federation applauded the change, but urged the province to use the revenue from the increased fines to fund habitat management and similar endeavours.

"The new penalties are more in line with the harm caused by poachers," executive director Jesse Zeman said in a statement. "The revenue generated by these penalties should now be used to reverse the long decline in funding for wildlife management."

According to the BCWF, the "proportion of the provincial budget" used to fund renewable resource management has declined by 75 per cent since 1993.

"Funding for fish and wildlife management in British Columbia is estimated at about $7 per capita," the conservation organization said in a news release. "Contrast that with expenditures in nearby jurisdictions such as Washington ($29), Montana ($91) and Alaska ($235)."

According to the B.C. government, more than 1,000 tickets for Wildlife Act offences were issued last year, with combined fines totalling more than $200,000.

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