Poaching & Unlawful Trafficking of Fish in Northern & Central Alberta
Yesterday, January 28, 2020 Alberta Fish and Wildlife Enforcement (AFWE) announced the conclusion of a two-year undercover investigation targeting the illegal trafficking of fish in northern and central Alberta. The post on the AFWE’s Facebook page details a network of illegal poachers and buyers of fish from High Prairie, Faust, Slave Lake, Morinville, Edmonton, Vegreville, Bashaw, Castor, and Halkirk.
“The fish were netted primarily in Lesser Slave Lake and Winagami Lake under the guise of Métis and Treaty domestic fishing rights,” the post explains.
As this case allegedly involves Métis Albertans, the MNA wants to ensure all citizens and harvesters are aware of this situation and its impact on our harvesting rights cause. AFWE explains they have charged 33 individuals with 80 counts under the General Fisheries (Alberta) Regulations, but it is not clear how many of the 33 people claim Métis harvesting rights. It is also unclear if this case is one of Métis commercial fishing rights. Commercial hunting, fishing, and trapping has always been a part of Métis livelihood and MNA continues to assert these rights and is negotiating with Alberta to have them recognized.
The MNA is reaching out to Alberta Environment and Parks regarding the case and the irresponsible and unnecessary reference to the “guise of Métis and Treaty domestic fishing rights.”
These allegations do not represent the behaviour or beliefs of Métis harvesters in Alberta. In fact, the Métis have always been and continue to be conservation focused. For generations our people have harvested this land responsibly, taking only what they need for their families to thrive.
In 2018, 800 Métis harvesters attended engagement sessions held collaboratively by the MNA and the Government of Alberta. At these sessions, they shared their main concerns around harvesting impacts and rights. Some of the top priorities for Métis harvesters included: more effective reporting mechanisms to ensure conservation efforts are adequately informed, educating young Métis harvesters on conservation practices, enforcing respect for land, water, and animals among all Métis harvesters.
With conservation of our natural resources as one of our core values, the MNA and Métis harvesters in Alberta do not condone poaching or overharvesting in any way, for any reason. Anyone found guilty of doing so should face the appropriate charges, so their actions do not impact the rights of law-abiding Métis and other Alberta harvesters.
As a self-governing nation, the MNA will need to address matters of this nature with Métis Harvesting Regulations developed by Métis for Métis. This task will fall to a Métis Harvesting Council that is currently being formed.
As more news on this investigation becomes available, the MNA will share updates on social media and on our website. If you have any concerns about this investigation or your harvesting rights, please reach out to our MNA harvesting team at cLetendre@metis.org or 780-455-2200. If you’d like to read more about what we heard at the 2018 engagement sessions or our ongoing negotiations on Métis harvesting rights in Alberta, click here. You’ll also find more conservation information attached below on the harvesting conservation card sent to all approved Métis harvesters in Alberta.