Convicted poachers will face far more serious consequences for having outstanding fines under a new law that will come into effect this fall.
If convicted, poachers will not be able to renew their Outdoors cards, could face the possibility of having their fishing and hunting equipment taken away, and could face a jail term if they refuse to pay their fines under the province’s new Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.
The maximum fine for non-commercial poaching offences will remain at $25,000 but offenders also may face a one-year jail term under the new act.
And anyone convicted of poaching for a profit now will face fines of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for up to two years. Violators also may be required to perform community services and/or take training courses.
The new legislation, which will replace the current Game and Fish Act, is designed to provide an “important tool” in the province’s efforts to conserve and manage Ontario’s natural resources.
The Ministry of Natural Resources said it will do this by protecting and managing a broader range of species, improving client services, and toughening enforcement provisions.
“This new act will show poachers that Ontario will not tolerate abuses to our fish and wildlife resources,” MNR minister John Snobelen said in a press release.
“When the act is law, offenders will face the toughest penalties in Ontario’s history,” he noted. “Tougher laws and enforcement will ensure our resources are sustained for the long term.”
The crackdown also is expected to help retrieve outstanding fines for wildlife offences.
Currently, those convicted of minor offences can have their hunting or fishing licences taken away but that is rarely done in these instances. Under the new act, however, anyone convicted of any minor offence could have their licence withheld for the next season if the fine is not paid.
Shawn O’Donnell, president of the Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club, said the new regulations are a step in the right direction in protecting wildlife.
“Anytime you get more officers out there enforcing [the law], it’s a good thing,” said O’Donnell, though admitting he didn’t know the full spectrum of the changes.
“[But] if it’s going to protect the wildlife and make any kind of difference, [then] I’m all for it,” he added.
Highlights of the new act
•Providing for the protection and management of a new category of specially-protected species.
More than 90 specially-protected species are listed in schedules attached to the bill, such as the red-shouldered hawk and the spicebush swallowtail butterfly.
•Increasing court powers to suspend or cancel licences, and to order violators to take training courses.
•Increasing the time limit on prosecutions to two years from six months.
•Prohibiting the possession of wildlife, invertebrates, or fish that were illegally taken in or from other jurisdictions. This is to help prevent Ontario from being used as a base for illegal trade activities.
•Prohibiting the possession of a black bear gall bladder separated from the carcass, and a prohibition on the sale of animal parts that are represented to be bear parts.