Poaching of endangered sturgeon on Fraser River caught on camera
An investigation has been launched into the alleged poaching of an endangered sturgeon in the Fraser River near Chilliwack, B.C. on Aug. 31.
Video taken from a nearby boat and posted to social media shows two men loading a large fish covered in a tarp into the back of a truck, before leaving the area near Bowman’s Point.
Several calls from witnesses flooded the provincial Report All Poachers and Polluters line around 12:30 p.m. as the incident unfolded.
“People reporting that there was a couple individuals, that it sounded like they stole a sturgeon from an angler, then tossed it into the back of a vehicle and took off,” said acting Sgt. Don Stahl with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.
Two Fisheries and Oceans Canada officers arrived on scene within about 20 minute along with a plainclothes major investigations unit officer from the Conservation Service, but the suspects were already gone.
According to the province, sturgeon in the Fraser River are considered endangered and are protected under the federal Species at Risk Act, but the population is healthy enough to allow a catch and release sport fishery.
“For a large fish to be taken out of the population, especially if it’s a female, that can have an impact,” explained Stahl.
The incident is troubling for those who work on the water, and have worked to protect the sturgeon population.
“People are disgusted,” said Chilliwack fishing guide Brody Mansell. “Guides and the whole fishing community are astonished those people would take a fish of that size right in front of other people.”
From witness reports, Stahl believes the sturgeon weighed about 300 pounds, and may have been worth hundreds – if not thousands -- of dollars if sold illegally on the black market.
“Most likely it’s probably for sales,” he explained. “Selling the meat. And if eggs are in there, it’s caviar. It’s valuable”
Potential suspects were identified the same day of the incident when conservation officers returned to the same area to do night patrols for illegal campfires.
“We decided to head down there and take a quick look in the off chance maybe the suspects may have returned,” Said Stahl. “They had. We were able to get some identification. We are following up with the investigation and interviewing witnesses.”
Poaching can lead to jail time, as well as large fines, up to $10,000. Any property involved in the act, such as a vehicle or a boat, can also be seized.
The sturgeon in the video was never found, and no charges have been laid.
The case remains under investigation.