South Peace News
A man from the High Prairie area facing several charges related to a major fish poaching operation has set a date for a second trial.
Louis Robert Bellrose appeared in Morinville court on March 10 to enter a plea on one count of unauthorized buying fish.
A trial was scheduled for Sept 8 in Morinville.
He also appeared in Stettler court on March 12 on four counts of unauthorized buying or selling fish. He is set to appear again April 9 in Stettler court for plea.
Bellrose previously set a trial for July 3 in High Prairie provincial court after pleading not guilty to three counts of unauthorized selling of fish.
Bellrose is one of 33 individuals from High Prairie, Faust, Slave Lake, and other Alberta communities, facing 80 charges under the General Fisheries [Alberta] Regulations by Alberta Fish and Wildlife.
Two people appeared in Slave Lake provincial court March 11. Brian Edmund Emes is charged with two counts of unauthorized buying or selling fish nad reserved his plea. He is set to next appear in Slave Lake court March 25 for plea.
Tracy Michael Emes is charged with two counts of unauthorized buying or selling fish. He failed to appear and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Two other men appeared in Morinville court on March 10. John Wurz is charged with one count of unauthorized buying or selling fish and reserved his plea. He is scheduled to appear in court April 30 for plea.
Lenard Hofer is charged with one count of unlawfully exporting fish and one count of illegal handling, marketing or storing fish in his first appearance. He also reserved plea and is scheduled to next appear in Morinville court May 12 for plea.
It is alleged the fish were netted primarily in Lesser Slave Lake and Winagami Lake under the guise of Métis and Treaty domestic fishing rights.
Charges include the unlawful sale, purchase and possession of fish, including lake whitefish and walleye.
The other people charged reside in Morinville, Edmonton, Vegreville, Bashaw, Castor and Halkirk.
Alberta Fish and Wildlife announced the charges Jan. 23 after concluding a two-year undercover investigation focused on the trafficking of fish in northern and central Alberta.
The investigation began when officers received information alleging that unlawful trafficking of fish was occurring in the High Prairie and Faust areas.
Officers began an undercover investigation in November 2017. The investigation revealed a network of illegal killers and buyers of fish.
There is no commercial fishery in Alberta and Métis/Treaty harvesting rights allow for personal subsistence use only.
The final undercover buy on Jan. 23 resulted in the seizure of a 2002 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 truck, four gill nets, five fish tubs and gill netting equipment.
During the course of the investigation it was estimated that approximately 12,000 pounds of fish were allegedly illegally killed and subsequently trafficked from Lesser Slave Lake and Winagami Lake.
All fish that were seized during the operation will be distributed to people in need throughout Alberta.
Any unregulated trade in fish and wildlife helps fuel black market demand, which could lead to increased poaching and pressure on fish and wildlife populations.
The penalty for trafficking fish is a maximum $100,000 and one-year incarceration per count.