Leko’s Conservation Corner – Illegal sale of fish and game meat online

(Last Updated On: December 5, 2017)

Written by Ministry of Environment Conservation Officer Lindsey Leko

Every morning I wake up and grab my iPad while I have breakfast. I read the news, look at local events and of course read some of the happenings on my Facebook account. I distantly remember reading a newspaper back in the day, but cannot imagine what life would be like without my iPad and the development of social media sites.

I am pretty well known on many of the fishing and hunting social media pages and frequently get asked to answer questions and provide information about the unlawful sale of wildlife on these social media sites. I have seen for sale items including moose meat, goose jerky, garter snakes, baby raccoons and mounted fish. Many times these items, including taxidermy items, are found for sale on Facebook garage sale pages. It is a daily occurrence and a problem that is growing in Saskatchewan and other jurisdictions.

History has taught us that allowing or commercializing the sale of wild game meat leads to over-harvesting and long-term damage to our provincial wildlife populations. The same is true of fish and although there is a commercial fishing industry, it is strictly regulated. We have to look at where the problem originates.

With more and more people looking for a healthy, natural and local source of protein, they are turning to wild game. The fact that a lot of these people have no past experience with hunting or exposure to natural resource laws is a growing concern. To them, buying wild game makes sense, especially if you are not a hunter. The other consideration is that we have a lot of new people from many parts of the world now living in Saskatchewan. They may not know that wild game is not treated as a commodity here. Many times the post is removed as soon as the person selling learns that what they are doing is illegal.

The sale of wildlife, or parts of wildlife, may be contrary to The Wildlife Act.

It is illegal to sell, advertise for sale, barter or trade any fish or wild game meat that was taken under either a sport licence, Treaty Right or Aboriginal Right. This constitutes trafficking in fish or wildlife, and is prohibited under Saskatchewan laws.

With the exception of wild meat, there are different rules that apply depending on the type of wildlife being sold. Items that may be sold without a permit include lawfully taken and tagged big game hides; leather made from lawfully taken big game hides and naturally shed big game antlers. Other items such as mounted big game heads or antlers, which are attached to the skull plate, require a sale of wildlife permit in order to be sold. A permit is also required to advertise these items for sale. In these cases, the licence under which the wildlife was taken is required.

Antlers of wildlife taken under the authority of Treaty or Aboriginal rights that have been separated from the skull and have been processed into a form of artwork may be sold without a Sale of Wildlife Permit.

For all other situations, it is best to contact your local conservation officer to determine the appropriate rules regarding sale of wildlife.

Commercial fishermen are allowed to sell lawfully taken fish to the public, but they also have rules they must follow, such as recording the sale. This includes fish pedlars. Fish pedlars are those trucks that you see in communities selling fish. Normally, it is a truck with a deep freeze in the back or some sort of reefer truck. You will see signs advertising fish for sale, so most of these are legit. However, a fish pedlar can only buy from a fish processor, or a retail store and the fish need to be labelled with the processor name or store name. For commercial fisherman selling fish door-to-door, the fisherman’s licence needs to be on the receipt, as well as the name of the lake where the fish came from.

Legit commercial fishermen and fish pedlars ensure that everything is on the up and up. The old saying “buyer beware” holds true and any type of wild game or fish meat product offered for sale anywhere including social media is something to watch out for. Mounted fish do not require a permit to sell as they are no longer considered a fish under The Fisheries Regulations.

Keep an eye out for advertisements for different exotic pets and even native wildlife. Species such as snakes and monkeys come up for sale from time to time and once again the buyer should understand the laws prior to completing the transaction. Much of this illegal activity is not known to the seller. Many times, officers will investigate and learn that the person selling or buying has no idea what the rules are. There are those, however, who have been warned before and are just out to make some quick cash. These are the individuals who are having a negative impact on our wildlife populations and know that what they are doing is illegal.

Q: Can I trade some fish or elk jerky to get my garden rototilled?

No. Trafficking includes trading, bartering or selling. Simply put, if it is being used as a form of currency, then it is illegal.

Q: What is the fine associated with trafficking offences?

Penalties for trafficking range between $500 to $100,000, depending upon the seriousness of the offence and the judgement of the court.

Q: Can I give fish or wildlife taken under a licence away?

Yes, as long as there is no financial transaction occurring you are good to go.

For migratory birds, the following information is required to be attached to a tag on each bird:

• the name and address of the owner;
• the number of the migratory game bird hunting permit under which the bird was taken; and
• the date the bird was taken.

Once again, if you have any questions or comments or even have a topic that you would like me to cover, drop me a quick email and I will make sure it gets done.

Until next time…stay safe!

CO Lindsey Leko – Photo credit Ministry of Environment.

Ministry of Environment conservation officer Lindsey Leko has spent more than 25 years as a conservation officer in Saskatchewan. For many years, Officer Leko contributed a column to local papers on a variety of issues related to hunting, fishing, and other resource-related issues. If you have questions, please contact lindsey.leko@gov.sk.ca.

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